Human evolution Intelligent Design

Baker’s dozen: Thirteen questions for Dr. Hunter

Spread the love

The purpose of today’s post is to ask Dr. Hunter thirteen questions regarding his views on human origins. I hope he will be gracious enough to respond. Without further ado, here they are.

1. Dr. Hunter, in your original article over at Darwin’s God, you put forward eleven arguments against the hypothesis that humans and chimps had a common ancestor, before going on to critique Professor S. Joshua Swamidass’s evidence for human evolution as “just another worthless argument,” which was “not about science,” but about metaphysics, and for that reason, “unfalsifiable.” Why did you subsequently revise your post, by deleting a key premise from your very first argument, and then deleting eight paragraphs which contained your sixth and seventh arguments? Do you now reject those arguments? Let me declare up-front that I have absolutely no wish to impute any bad motives to you for editing your own blog post. I just want to know where you stand, that’s all. (Curious readers may go here to see what the old version of Dr. Hunter’s post looked like, and here to view the new one. For more details, please see the Appendix below.)

You also assert that Professor Swamidass’s case for human evolution is based on metaphysical assumptions, rather than science. Bearing that in mind, I’d like to ask you the following questions.

2. Can you name a single branch of science which isn’t based on metaphysical assumptions, to at least some extent? For instance, don’t even the so-called “observational sciences” assume the reliability of induction – an assumption which is grounded in a metaphysical worldview of things (or substances) possessing determinate natures, which guarantee that they will behave in a uniform fashion? (Even if essentialism is dead in the biological realm, it continues to hold sway in the fields of physics and chemistry: lower-level entities such as molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles and fields are still envisaged as having a fixed nature, which is the same at all times and places.)

3. That being the case, instead of trying to purge metaphysics from science, shouldn’t we focus on making our core metaphysical assumptions as simple, non-controversial and commonsensical as possible?

4. Do you accept that if hypothesis A readily explains an empirical fact F and hypothesis B does not, then F (taken by itself) constitutes scientific evidence for A over B? Or putting it another way, if a fact F is predicted by hypothesis A, and compatible with hypothesis B but not predicted by B, then do you agree that F constitutes scientific evidence for A over B? If not, why not?

5. Do you also accept that the hypothesis that humans and chimps share a common ancestor is not a hypothesis about mechanisms as such (or what Aristotle would describe as efficient causes) but rather, about material causes – i.e. the raw material from which the human body was originally derived, regardless of the process involved, with the “raw material” in this case being the body of the supposed common ancestor of man and chimp? What I’m saying here is that the hypothesis of common ancestry, taken by itself, is agnostic as to whether the human mind originally arose from matter, or whether human evolution was guided or unguided. Do you agree? If not, why not?

6. If you accept 4 and 5, then why do you not agree that the profound genetic similarities between humans and chimps constitute at least prima facie (scientific) evidence for the hypothesis of common ancestry? And why do you not agree that the discovery of fossil hominins such as Australopithecus, Homo habilis and Homo ergaster, which appear to be transitional in form, constitutes additional scientific evidence which bolsters this hypothesis, even if it’s incomplete evidence?

7. Am I correct in understanding you as claiming that there exists no scientific evidence whatsoever for the hypothesis that humans and chimps share a common ancestor, and that all of the arguments put forward for human evolution are in reality metaphysical arguments?

8. Do you claim that (a) it is impossible, in principle, to mount a purely scientific argument for the common ancestry of humans and chimps, or merely that (b) no-one has yet succeeded in putting forward such an argument?

9. If you chose (a), would you also agree that it is impossible, in principle, to mount a purely scientific argument for the human race (or the world) being more than 6,000 years old?

10. If you chose (b), then can you show me a purely scientific argument (devoid of metaphysical assumptions) for the various races of man sharing a common ancestor – and for that matter, for modern humans and Neanderthals sharing a common ancestor? If so, please specify.

11. If you chose (b), then what kind of scientific argument for humans and chimps having a common ancestor would satisfy you?

12. I’d like to draw your attention to the following quote from the young-earth creationist, Dr. Todd Wood, commenting on Dr. Fazale Rana and Dr. Hugh Ross’s demand, in their book, Who was Adam?, that before they recognize the evolution of humans and chimps from a common ancestor as an established fact, there would have to be “a clear evolutionary pathway from this supposed ancestor to modern human,” as well as hominid fossils documenting “the gradual emergence of the anatomical and behavioral traits that define humanity, such as large brain size, advanced culture, and the ability to walk erect,” with “transitional forms” readily discernible in the fossil record. Dr. Wood comments:

Given the spotty and fragmentary hominin fossil record, expecting any clarity for any model is unrealistic. Even if human evolution were true and the fossil record preserved wonderful and numerous fossils of every descendant of the hypothetical human/chimpanzee last common ancestor, there is no guarantee that we would be able to recognize any “clear” lineage from nonhuman to human.

Would you care to comment?

13. In the comments to one of your posts, you thanked a reader for linking to an article stating that the protein vitellogenin confers several beneficial effects upon bees, in addition to being used to make egg yolks. Humans possess a broken copy of the gene which makes this protein; they no longer need it. So my final question is: why do you not consider this gene to be vestigial – especially when Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins’s claim that the remaining gene fragments in human beings are functional has been soundly refuted by Dr. Dennis Venema?

I would also welcome readers’ comments on the questions I posed to Dr. Hunter.

A trip down history lane: the 1864 Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences

In 1864, a group of young London chemists, led by a young chemist named Herbert McLeod (1841-1923) and calling themselves ‘Students of the natural and physical sciences’, put together a statement titled the Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences, expressing their belief that “it is impossible for the Word of God, as written in the book of nature, and God’s Word written in Holy Scripture, to contradict one another, however much they may appear to differ,” and expressing their confident belief that “a time will come when the two records will be seen to agree in every particular.” The statement, which was published in 1865, attracted the signatures of 717 people (most of whom were scientists), including 86 Fellows of the Royal Society. James Joule and Adam Sedgwick were among its signatories. Other scientists, however, attacked the wording of the statement as divisive, and urged that it was high time to “let men of science mind their own business, and theologians theirs.” The most prominent critic of the Declaration was the British mathematician Augustus De Morgan, who argued in his work, A Budget of Paradoxes (section O), that scientists should not be called on to approve or disapprove, in writing, any religious doctrine or statement, and who put forward an alternative declaration of his own. What is remarkable, historically speaking, is that both documents fall afoul of what scientists now refer to as methodological naturalism. Even the alternative version put forward by de Morgan expressed a belief in the “Word of God, as correctly read in the Book of Nature,” as well as expressing “faith as to our future state.”

The dissenters from the 1864 Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences carried the day, and by 1872, the Declaration was all but forgotten.

The Declaration read as follows:

We, the undersigned Students of the Natural Sciences, desire to express our sincere regret, that researches into scientific truth are perverted by some in our own times into occasion for casting doubt upon the Truth and Authenticity of the Holy Scriptures. We conceive that it is impossible for the Word of God, as written in the book of nature, and God’s Word written in Holy Scripture, to contradict one another, however much they may appear to differ. We are not forgetful that Physical Science is not complete, but is only in a condition of progress, and that at present our finite reason enables us only to see as through a glass darkly, and we confidently believe, that a time will come when the two records will be seen to agree in every particular. We cannot but deplore that Natural Science should be looked upon with suspicion by many who do not make a study of it, merely on account of the unadvised manner in which some are placing it in opposition to Holy Writ. We believe that it is the duty of every Scientific Student to investigate nature simply for the purpose of elucidating truth, and that if he finds that some of his results appear to be in contradiction to the Written Word, or rather to his own interpretations of it, which may be erroneous, he should not presumptuously affirm that his own conclusions must be right, and the statements of Scripture wrong; rather, leave the two side by side till it shall please God to allow us to see the manner in which they may be reconciled; and, instead of insisting upon the seeming differences between Science and the Scriptures, it would be as well to rest in faith upon the points in which they agree.

It strikes me that a creationist could conscientiously sign this Declaration, affirming a belief in the special creation of man, while at the same time acknowledging that the scientific evidence appears to contradict this view at the present time, but trusting nevertheless that at some future time, a resolution of this conflict of evidence will be found. To my mind, that sounds like a fine, manly position for a special creationist to take. I wonder what Dr. Hunter thinks of it. And what do readers think?

Is Dr. Hunter misreading Professor Swamidass?

In the course of his reply to my post, Dr. Hunter accuses Professor Swamidass of the following charges:

(a) dogmatically drawing conclusions when he states that the evolutionary story “is by far the best scientific explanation of our origins”;

(b) suggesting that microevolution is sufficient to explain the evolution of humans from a small, ape-like creature;

(c) adopting a scientist-versus-theologian, Warfare Thesis perspective, and demanding that theologians must adjust their sights, drop their denial, and grapple with the undeniable truths of evolution;

(d) writing in a confrontationist tone, by castigating as “lawyerly” those who would explain the similarities between humans and chimps by appealing to common “design”; and

(e) presenting a patronizing story in his article, in order to “reduce the fear some feel when encountering evidence that might contradict their understanding of the Bible.”

I believe that Professor Swamidass is innocent of these charges.

To begin with (e): in presenting the story of the 100-year-old tree, Professor Swamidass expressly states that his aim is simply to get theologians to acknowledge that “for some reason, God chose to create humans so that our genomes look as though we do, in fact, have a common ancestor with chimpanzees.” And that’s all. He then goes on to say: “If we allow for God’s intervention in our history, it is possible we do not share a common ancestor with apes. Adding God into the picture, anything is possible.” This is not patronizing, and it I certainly not an attempt to bulldoze theologians into accepting evolution.

Regarding (d), Swamidass does indeed use the term “lawyerly” to characterize those who would explain the similarities between humans and chimps in terms of common design. That’s because the explanation is too vague: it fails to account for the extraordinary fact that our DNA is only about 1.5% different from a chimp’s. Nevertheless, Swamidass’s tone is far from confrontationist, when he writes: “What design principle can explain why humans are 10 times more similar to chimpanzees than mice are to rats? No one knows.” He isn’t saying that an appeal to common design is wrong; rather, he’s saying that if it is true, it’s not the whole story. There must be some additional reason why we are so similar to chimps.

Regarding (c), it is important to note that Professor Swamidass repeatedly describes himself as a Creation Pacifist. He rejects the view that science and religion have to be at war with one another, as well as the condescending view that scientific truth trumps religious dogma. The Creation Pacifist movement which he belongs to includes people who are creationists. It would be utterly absurd to describe such a man as adopting a “Warfare Thesis” perspective.

Regarding (b), Professor Swamidass does not say that microevolution is sufficient to explain the evolution of humans from a small, ape-like creature. Rather, what he says is that the degree of similarity between humans and chimps puts them in the same Biblical “kind,” genetically speaking, and that microevolution explains the genetic similarities (but not necessarily the differences):

In fact, if “microevolution” (a concept many religious leaders affirm) can explain the similarity between rats and mice, it is reasonable to infer it explains the similarity between humans and chimpanzees. Genetically, humans and apes are the same “kind.”

Nowhere in his article does Professor Swamidass claim that the entire suite of differences (psychological, behavioral, morphological and genetic) between humans and chimps can be accounted for by random, step-by-step mutations. His article leaves open the question of how we became human.

Regarding (a), Professor Swamidass does indeed assert that the evolutionary story “is by far the best scientific explanation of our origins,” but he qualifies his assertion by inserting the word “scientific” in front of “explanation,” and by remarking: “Maybe this evolutionary story is false.” I would hardly call that dogmatic; would you?

Finally, let me quote an excerpt from a comment made by Professor Swamidass in response to a reader:

“Strong scientific evidence for common descent exists, but when taking God into account it is not definitive.” This is not a religious statement. It does not presume that evolution is true. And it does not end all our disagreements. And it should not be controversial.

That was all Professor Swamidass was really trying to say. It’s a real pity that some people took umbrage at his remarks.

APPENDIX: Dr. Hunter’s curious deletions

I mentioned above that Dr. Hunter had edited his original post on Darwin’s God, removing two of his eleven arguments and substantially watering down his first argument. Fortunately for readers, Dr. Hunter left another post online, which was virtually identical to his original post.

To see what Dr. Hunter’s original post looked like, readers can view his article, Stunning Evidence for Common Ancestry? S. Joshua Swamidass on the Chimp-Human Divergence over at Evolution News and Views. This article is virtually identical to Dr. Hunter’s original post over at Darwin’s God, except that: (a) the offensive last sentence of that post (“Like that old baseball card, it’s just another worthless argument”) is missing (and yes, I do think it’s “curtly dismissive” in tone); (b) the second paragraph has been split into two paragraphs; and (c) the heading near the end of the article has been changed, from “Swamidass arguments and evidences” to “Swamidass Explains?” One or two words in the post have also been changed.

Let me be quite clear: I’m not accusing Dr. Hunter of doing anything wrong here, in editing his original post. He has included a short note at the end of his revised post over at Darwin’s God: “Ed; Removed sentence about the orangutan, 1-Mb segments section, and the gene functionality section.” That’s fine. After all, it’s his blog, and he can edit it as he sees fit. For my part, I sometimes correct typos and sloppy wording on my own posts, especially within the first day after I publish them, although when I do amend my posts, I tend to expand them slightly, rather than deleting stuff.

However, I am very curious as to why Dr. Hunter dropped two of his arguments against human evolution from his original post, and weakened the force of another of his arguments by removing a key claim about orangutans. Why would he do that, if he actually believed those arguments? Or has he changed his views on the merits of those arguments? In that case, why doesn’t he just come out and say so?

Let me add that I have changed my mind in the light of new evidence, and openly acknowledged my errors on Uncommon Descent. My 2014 post, When I’m wrong, is a good example. Previously, I had put forward certain arguments (see here, here, here, here and here) against the neutral theory of evolution, which I later came to recognize as flawed, after an exchange of views with Professor Larry Moran.

Since I have publicly acknowledged my own mistakes on previous occasions, I would ordinarily expect other contributors to Uncommon Descent to do likewise, in similar circumstances. But I’m happy to let Dr. Hunter speak for himself.

Dr. Hunter’s original arguments

To help readers see what I’m talking about, here are the eleven arguments Dr. Hunter put forward in his original post, in summary form, along with my replies.

1. The genetic evidence cited in favor of common descent is not congruent with the other data: “in its morphology and behavior, the orangutan is closer to humans than the chimpanzee.”
[My reply: Dr. Hunter is probably relying on out-of-date 2009 paper by Grehan and Schwartz, which claimed that orangutans were morphologically closer humans than chimps were. However, another more recent study using a larger dataset found that chimpanzees are morphologically closer to humans than orangutans are (see also here.]

2. Mutations are random, and natural selection doesn’t help, either: “it cannot induce or coax the right mutations to occur.” According to Dr. Hunter, “this makes the evolution of even a single protein, let alone humans, statistically impossible.”
[My reply: this is an argument against evolution occurring purely via undirected processes. It is not an argument against common descent.]

3. Random mutations cannot create human consciousness, and evolutionary attempts to deny the reality of consciousness or explain it away as an “emergent property” are tantamount to anti-realism.
[My reply: this is an argument against materialistic theories of evolution. It is not an argument against common descent.]

4. It makes little sense that the relatively tiny genetic difference (1 or 2%) between human and chimpanzee DNA could be responsible the enormous design differences between the two species.
[My reply: this is incorrect. Scientists now know that the vast majority of genetic changes are either neutral or nearly neutral, whereas morphological changes (including the “design changes” referred to by Dr. Hunter) are often subject to natural selection, and are therefore either beneficial or deleterious. Neutral or nearly neutral mutations dwarf beneficial mutations in frequency, and the ratio of the former to the latter is not fixed. Hence the degree of genetic divergence between two species tells us nothing about how different they are, morphologically.]

5. To makes matters worse, according to the widely accepted neutral theory of evolution, the vast majority of the mutations occurring in the human line would have led to “neutral and slightly deleterious alleles.” Dr. Hunter comments: “This is no way to evolve the most complex designs in the world.”
[My reply: It has been calculated that out of the 22.5 million (mostly neutral) mutations that occurred in the human line, a mere 340 beneficial mutations would have been enough to turn the common ancestor of man and the chimp into a modern human being. The hypothesis of common descent does not specify whether these mutations were intelligently designed or not.]

6. What’s more, when evolutionists search for genes in the human genome that do show signs of selection, rather than neutral drift, they only find relatively unimportant ones: one 2005 study found only “genes involved in the sense of smell, in digestion, in hairiness, and in hearing.”
[My reply: Dr. Hunter is relying on outdated information here. A more recent 2013 paper by Capra et al. found that brain enhancers were actually the most common of the 773 developmental enhancers that they analyzed, in the non-coding human accelerated regions (ncHARs) of the human genome.]

7. If you look at large segments of DNA, corresponding in the human and the chimp, you find unexplainable variations in the chimp-human differences, which evolutionists can only explain away by resorting to a “then a miracle happened” hypothesis. Dr. Hunter remarks: “Under evolution there is no scientific reason, beyond hand-waving speculation, for such variations.”
[My reply: the differences in the rate of divergence which Dr. Hunter refers to are relatively minor. If we look at the median figures for chromosome pairs 1 to 22, we find that the genetic difference between humans and chimps varies from about 1.1% to a little under 1.4%, with an average overall difference of 1.23%. See also Professor Swamidass’s remarks on the subject here.]

8. According to Dr. Hunter, “The supposed divergence rate between chimps and humans … also has an unexplainable variation towards the ends of most chromosomes. This is another problem that seems to make no sense under evolution.”
[My reply: even near telomeres (the ends of chromosomes), the level of divergence between human and chimp DNA never gets above 2.1%, and elsewhere in the genome, it never falls below 1.0%. In other words, we’re talking about a two-fold variation in the rate at which the molecular clock ticks, in the worst possible case. This is hardly earth-shattering news. See also Professor Swamidass’s remarks on the subject here.]

9. Dr. Hunter writes: “This supposed divergence rate between chimps and humans also has an unexplainable variation that correlates with chromosomal banding. Again, this makes no sense under evolution.”
[My reply: neither evolution nor creation explains this observation well. In any case, it is fatal to neither theory. Dr. Hunter is making much ado about nothing. See also Professor Swamidass’s remarks on the subject here.]

10. Dr. Hunter observes: “The mouse-rat [genetic] divergence is about an order of magnitude greater than the chimp-human divergence. Yet the mouse and rat are much more [morphologically] similar than the chimp and human. It makes no sense under evolution.”
[My reply: there’s no correlation between the frequency of morphological changes and the frequency of genetic mutations. In the beginning, Darwinian evolutionists mistakenly assumed that the genetic difference between rats and mice would be small, because the morphological differences between these animals are slight. But we now know that the vast majority of the genetic differences between any two species are neutral or near-neutral mutations, which dwarf beneficial mutations by a factor of about 100,000 to 1 (see above: 340 beneficial mutations to 22.5 million neutral ones). Morphological differences, by contrast, are frequently caused by beneficial mutations, which are screened by natural selection.]

11. Finally, since mice and rats are supposed to have diverged long before humans and chimps did, and since mice and rats have a much shorter lifespan and generation time than chimps and humans, “one would conclude that the mouse-rat genetic divergence should be … at least two orders of magnitude greater than the chimp-human genetic divergence. But it isn’t.”
[My reply: Dr. Hunter’s figures are wrong. In reality, the neutral molecular clock ticks twice as fast for rats and mice as it does for primates. Multiply that by the three-fold difference between the 18-million-year-old mouse-rat divergence date estimated by evolutionists and the 6-million-year-old human-chimp divergence date, and you get an expected level of genetic divergence which is just six times greater – and not two orders of magnitude (or 100 times) greater, as calculated by Dr. Hunter. See also Professor Swamidass’s remarks on the subject here click on the hyperlink, “How does common descent explain the differences between chimps and humans?”]

Dr. Hunter’s amendments to his original post

Here’s the crucial sentence which Dr. Hunter deleted from his first argument against evolution, in his original poston his Darwin’s God Website:

Furthermore, in its morphology and behavior, the orangutan is closer to humans than the chimpanzee.

Take this sentence away, and the force of Dr. Hunter’s conclusion in that argument is vastly weakened: “Simply put, from an evolutionary perspective the genetic data are not congruent with the other data.” Why not, exactly?

And here are the eight paragraphs which Dr. Hunter deleted from his original post:

When evolutionists search for genes in the human genome that do show signs of selection, rather than neutral drift (again, under the assumption of evolution), they find only a limited repertoire of functionality. For example, one study found genes involved in the sense of smell, in digestion, in hairiness, and in hearing. In other words, evolution is suggesting that we differ from the chimp mainly in those functions. It is a silly conclusion and another problem for Swamidass to explain.

But that’s not all.

That 2005 paper also found a host of chimp-human comparisons that are nonsensical in evolutionary terms. In other words, if you are forced to interpret the genetic comparisons in terms of evolution, you end up with contradictions. For example, if you look at large segments of DNA, corresponding in the human and the chimp, you find unexplainable variations in the chimp-human differences:

Nucleotide divergence rates are not constant across the genome… The average divergence in 1-Mb segments fluctuates with a standard deviation of 0.25%, which is much greater than the 0.02% expected assuming a uniform divergence rate.

To explain these nonsensical findings evolutionists have to resort to a “then a miracle happened” hypothesis. The usual explanatory devices do not work, so they are left only with the claim that local variations in the mutation rate did it — which amounts to special pleading:

[W]e suggest that the large-scale variation in the human-chimpanzee divergence rate primarily reflects regional variation in mutation rate.

Under evolution there is no scientific reason, beyond hand-waving speculation, for such variations. This is the equivalent of epicycles in geocentrism and so we have yet another problem for Swamidass to address.

But that’s not all.

These arguments have now vanished without a trace and without an explanation. And I am left wondering whether Dr. Hunter still believes them or not.

But enough of that. What do readers think? Over to you.

331 Replies to “Baker’s dozen: Thirteen questions for Dr. Hunter

  1. 1
    rhampton7 says:

    VJ Torley,
    I think Ken Ham’s reasons for refuting OEC or accepting any tolerance of it preclude any hope of a future reconciliation of science & scripture. That is, science would still undermine the faith for too many Christians. I suspect that many in the ID community would agree. TEs, for example, are not Generally welcomed, despite embodying the spirit of the 1864 Declaration.

  2. 2
    mk says:

    evolution isnt a scientific theory because we cant falsified it. for example: prof dawkins for example claim that even one fossil in the wrong place will falsified the evolution theory (like a human with t-rex). but in reality we find such fossils all the time. for example: we find a tetrapod footprint that is date more then 15 milion years earlier then its transitional form (tiktaalik):

    http://www.livescience.com/600.....hink.html2

    its like to find a human fossil even before apes.

    now- about the fossil record: we can arrange in hierarchy cars and trucks. for example: a car–>jeep–>truck. but we all know that they not evolved from each other. even if they have a self replicating system or dna. so fossils also cant prove evolution.

  3. 3
    clown fish says:

    VJT, very good post. Good for thought.

  4. 4
    Origenes says:

    Vincent Torley,

    VJT:
    2. Can you name a single branch of science which isn’t based on metaphysical assumptions, to at least some extent? (…)

    The problem is not with the fact that there are unavoidably metaphysical underpinnings to naturalistic science, but rather with the fact that its foundational metaphysical assumption — everything is physical — makes it self-referentially incoherent. For one thing, as I have argued elsewhere, metaphysical naturalism fails to ground rationality and therefor cuts off the branch on which it wants to sit.

    VJT:
    3. That being the case, instead of trying to purge metaphysics from science, shouldn’t we focus on making our core metaphysical assumptions as simple, non-controversial and commonsensical as possible?

    Sure! Let’s abolish naturalistic science. A coherent science must assume a metaphysics that accommodates conscious free controlled rationality.

    VJT:
    4. Do you accept that if hypothesis A readily explains an empirical fact F and hypothesis B does not, then F (taken by itself) constitutes scientific evidence for A over B? Or putting it another way, if a fact F is predicted by hypothesis A, and compatible with hypothesis B but not predicted by B, then do you agree that F constitutes scientific evidence for A over B? If not, why not?

    I see a problem when hypothesis A predicts, besides fact F, a zillion of other facts with equal ease — including the opposite of fact F. Such an extreme adaptability wrt predictions is typical for the so called blind watchmaker evolution hypothesis.

    VJT:
    5. Do you also accept that the hypothesis that humans and chimps share a common ancestor is not a hypothesis about mechanisms as such (or what Aristotle would describe as efficient causes) but rather, about material causes – i.e. the raw material from which the human body was originally derived, regardless of the process involved, with the “raw material” in this case being the body of the supposed common ancestor of man and chimp? What I’m saying here is that the hypothesis of common ancestry, taken by itself, is agnostic as to whether the human mind originally arose from matter, or whether human evolution was guided or unguided. Do you agree? If not, why not?

    Obviously I accept your personal definition of common ancestry, knowing full well what common ancestry means in the context of naturalistic evolutionary theory. What I don’t understand is that you find it plausible that the designer of life is restricted to common ancestry. And when common ancestry is only a pathway to introduce new species, as opposed to being an essential part of a naturalistic mechanism that explains change and new information, then what exactly is its import to your philosophy?

    VJT:
    6. If you accept 4 and 5, then why do you not agree that the profound genetic similarities between humans and chimps constitute at least prima facie (scientific) evidence for the hypothesis of common ancestry?

    These genetic similarities support the hypothesis of common ancestry. It also supports the idea that DNA is not as important as we once thought. The point is that common ancestry does not appeal to me as a plausible way to introduce new species. For one thing, it is not available for the coming into existence for the first cell. Moreover the hypothesis is contradicted by the fossil record:

    Jay Gould: “The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.”

    What we see is a pattern of explosions: cambrian explosion, the origin of major fish groups, the origin of land plants, bird explosion and so forth.

    VJT:
    And why do you not agree that the discovery of fossil hominins such as Australopithecus, Homo habilis and Homo ergaster, which appear to be transitional in form, constitutes additional scientific evidence which bolsters this hypothesis, even if it’s incomplete evidence?

    There seem to be problems with each of those ‘fossil hominins’, e.g. Australopithecus.
    Second, the initial enthusiasm that accompanies each finding makes me skeptical.

    VJT:
    7. Am I correct in understanding you as claiming that there exists no scientific evidence whatsoever for the hypothesis that humans and chimps share a common ancestor, and that all of the arguments put forward for human evolution are in reality metaphysical arguments?

    Clear intermediates seem to be as elusive as ever.

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    The thing I note is that evidence for common descent between man/apes must be real evidence. Not comparative data.
    like genes with apes or mice is only evidence of like genes.
    Its not scientific or any kind of evidence for linking unrelated creatures as we are now.
    Its not a REAL hypothesis to see common descent between us/apes by mere comparative bits and pieces.
    Its just a guess with a line of reasoning.
    The fossil things are hopeless in credibility and easily dismissed.

  6. 6
    Mung says:

    2. Can you name a single branch of science which isn’t based on metaphysical assumptions, to at least some extent?

    Can you name a single branch of science which isn’t based on metaphysical and theological assumptions, to at least some extent?

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    1. Dr. Hunter, in your original article over at Darwin’s God, you put forward eleven arguments against the hypothesis that humans and chimps had a common ancestor…

    That’s not the way I read his article. I didn’t see it as an argument against common ancestry but rather as a critique of supposed arguments for common ancestry.

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    3. That being the case, instead of trying to purge metaphysics from science, shouldn’t we focus on making our core metaphysical assumptions as simple, non-controversial and commonsensical as possible?

    That being the case, instead of trying to purge metaphysics from science, shouldn’t scientists focus on making their core metaphysical and theological assumptions as simple, non-controversial and commonsensical as possible?

    I think Dr. hunter is well-justified in asking what the theological assumptions are that Prof. Swamidass relies upon in his arguments.

    Most of us are quite familiar with the tag line of Hunter’s blog.

    How Religion Drives Science and Why it Matters

    Prof. Swamidass is not immune. Neither is Vincent Torley. 😉

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    5. Do you also accept that the hypothesis that humans and chimps share a common ancestor is not a hypothesis about mechanisms as such (or what Aristotle would describe as efficient causes) but rather, about material causes – i.e. the raw material from which the human body was originally derived, regardless of the process involved, with the “raw material” in this case being the body of the supposed common ancestor of man and chimp?

    Why is this even a question fr Dr. Hunter, and why isn’t it a question for Prof. Swamidass? Are you aware of any Aristotelian evolutionary biologists?

    IOW, what would the answer be of mainstream evolutionary biology to this question?

  10. 10
    StephenB says:

    I think a fair analysis would include scrutiny of Dr. Hunter and Prof. Swamidass. From what I have read, the latter has been let off the hook, which seems a little irregular to me. To be precise, I think we ought to ask Professor Swamidass about his dubious criticism of ID science, his apparent fideism, and most of all, his support for Christian Darwinism, which cannot be defended.

  11. 11
    Mung says:

    8. Do you claim that (a) it is impossible, in principle, to mount a purely scientific argument for the common ancestry of humans and chimps, or merely that (b) no-one has yet succeeded in putting forward such an argument?

    It’s impossible. There is no such thing as science without metaphysics and theology. That’s a myth.

    No God, No Science?: Theology, Cosmology, Biology

  12. 12
    jerry says:

    I have some suggestions for Prof. Swamidass who is definitely hostile to those who suggest naturalistic evolution is deficient.

    He should review

    Michael Behe’s Edge of Evolution

    Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt

    and when he has finished these two, he can review

    Doug Axe’s Undeniable which will be out by the time he reads the first two books.

    Also why the hostility towards Dr. Hunter? His emphasis on the metaphysical or religous nature of the anti ID arguments are pretty well supported. They are based on the idea that most of the argument against ID are that the designer must have been stupid and our supposed God isn’t stupid so our supposed God wasn’t the designer and thus, it must have happened naturally. Nearly every anti ID argument is similar to this or to the stipulation that there is no God, and thus it must have happened naturally,

    Prof. Swamidass is definitely pushing a theological agenda.

  13. 13

    To clarify a few things.

    1. I have no animosity to Dr. Hunter. I just do not understand him or trust him at the moment. Hopefully that will change in the future. No animosity here.

    2. I think naturalistic evolution is deficient too, mainly because it is a profoundly incomplete description of our world. And I am not hostile to your critiques of naturalism. On the most important points (God’s existence and involvement) I am already convinced you are right, but I find the specific arguments lacking. I am not convinced. I’m not sure why that makes me hostile. I’m just a sympathetic and honest expert. Besides, you are free to disagree with me here. Go ahead and make your case.

    3. I am not a Darwinist, and never have been. I am a theist. I believe God created and designed us. I am a Christian. I am not a naturalist and am not a deist or atheist.

    4. @12. I’ve read those books and many many more. My suggestion to you is to consider a PhD in Biology. It will change you world. Biology just works different than you imagine. It has never been a more exciting time. There is so much more in science than evolution to be passionate about. Come join the fun.

    5. I am not a fidelist. Epistemologically, I rest my faith on the evidence for the Resurrection (see The Resurrection of the Son of God by NT Wright) and my true experience with the Risen One (see Warranted Faith by Plantinga). For me, Jesus is enough for confident belief. I, personally, do not need scientific arguments. If that is a “theological agenda,” so be it. You don’t have to agree with me here. That is just where I come from. You don’t have to be a Resurrectionist like me meet me on common ground I offer.

    6. Evolution is absolutely falsifiable. God could easily have made us with genomes that entirely falsified it. Any one who doubts this either is profoundly ignorant of Biology, or does not believe God is powerful enough to make a clear evidence against evolution. Apparently, this was not part of HIs design goals. Maybe He doesn’t care about disproving evolution as much as do you?

    7. I have no problem with design, in principle. I myself believe God design us all. I think there is value, nonetheless, in finding and defending opportunities for common ground, especially from bad arguments.

    8. Subject my arguments to all the scrutiny you like. The only way to win the opposing case is by arguing for a different version of science or constructing a better design theory. Under the rules of mainstream science, the case is definitive. I welcome you to come learn how mainstream science works. It is non-intuitive, but worth the effort to learn about it. Everyone is welcome to come and learn.

  14. 14
    Mung says:

    see The Resurrection of the Son of God by NT Wright

    I hope this means you’re a preterist. 🙂

  15. 15
    Dionisio says:

    Prof Swamidass @13

    Please, would you mind answering the questions in
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-607486
    Or state why you don’t answer them.
    Thank you.

  16. 16
    Dionisio says:

    Prof Swamidass @13

    I am a Christian.

    1. Why?
    2. What does that mean?

  17. 17
    Anaxagoras says:

    I am glad Dr Swamidass has finally clarifed the hole issue by answering the relevant questions:

    He is not a Darwinist (he has never been) and he thinks naturalistic evolution is deficient too.
    So, he thinks (I guess) there are traits that point to common descent, but there are traits that are unique of human beings and therefore can not be explained by common descent.
    Being that the case it is difficult to understand why someone would make a case for common descent without mentioning the reasons why common descent would not be a sufficient explanation of what we are.
    I side with Dr Hunter on his attempt to include those biological remarks that necessarily conclude the necessity of a less simplistic approach to the question of human origins.

  18. 18
    StephenB says:

    Professor Swamidass:

    I am not a Darwinist, and never have been. I am a theist. I believe God created and designed us. I am a Christian. I am not a naturalist and am not a deist or atheist.

    Don’t you realize that many people claim that they are both Christians and Darwinsts at the same time? That is what many of us thought you meant when you said you were a Theistic Evolutionst and supported BioLogos. Don’t you know that BioLogos promotes the Christian/NeoDarwinist position? (as if such a thing could be logically possible)

    Let’s put it to the test:

    Do you believe that God created humans [a] through a designed or guided evolutionary process that had man in mind, which is rejected by most evolutionary biologists as non-scientific; or through [b] an unguided, non-designed, Darwinian process that did not have man in mind, which is the mainstream position held by evolutionary biologists and taught as fact in most high-school textbooks? In other words, do you accept the mainstream positions, as does BioLogos, or reject the mainstream position? You appear to be all over the map.

  19. 19
    Dionisio says:

    Anaxagoras @17

    I am glad Dr Swamidass has finally clarifed the hole issue by answering the relevant questions:

    Did you mean “whole”?

  20. 20

    @17

    I’m glad that last clarification makes sense, though I find your post remarkable.

    I’ve always said that I am a “theistic evolutionist.” Obviously, I am not a Darwinist, right? How did that just now become clear?

    I’ve always said (including in the original article ) that evolution might be false, and even if it is true it is certainly incomplete. Isn’t that just the same a saying that naturalistic evolution is deficient?

    My only point is that there is strong scientific evidence for common descent. That doesn’t mean it is true, just that this evidence exists. This should not be nearly as controversial as many want to make it.

  21. 21

    @18 a fun but rude question.

    I guess I have never met a Christian Darwinist, even though I work with BioLogos. That sounds like a contradiction and a caricature. BioLogos prefers the term “evolutionary creation” and “evolutionary creationist.” I’ve always understood “Darwinist” in the ID community to be a derogatory slur that is synonymous with atheism, and have never applied it to myself. Send me some links to those at BioLogos that call themselves Darwinists. I’d be curious to see that.

    From a scientific viewpoint, evolution is “apparently” unguided, as far as we can currently tell. In the same way, embryology is unguided, as far as we can tell in science.

    From a theological viewpoint, God created us with great intention and care. If He used evolution to do it, He was thoroughly involved at every step, in the same way he “knits us together in our mother’s womb.” He holds all things together. Both evolution (if its true) and embryology are guided by God from a theological point of view.

    I believe both things at the same time. I see no conflict here, and I am agnostic about the exact nature/mechanism of God’s role in evolution, though I do believe in a historical Adam and Eve. Most probably agree with me about embryology (seeing it as scientifically unguided but theologically guided), but find it unacceptable to see evolution in the same way. I find that remarkable. I wonder why that is. What makes the creation of the human race (perhaps evolution) so profoundly different than the creation of a single human (embryology), that we cannot use the same theological framework?

  22. 22
    bornagain77 says:

    Refutation of common decent of humans from apes (May 2016)
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-606962

  23. 23
    StephenB says:

    Professor Swamidass

    I believe both things at the same time.

    I know you do. That’s why I brought it up.

    Most probably agree with me about embryology (seeing it as scientifically unguided but theologically guided)

    God either guided the process or he didn’t. Man was either the intended result of the process or he wasn’t. Do you not grasp the problem here? Both cannot be true at the same time.

    More importantly, biological organisms do, indeed, appear to be designed. Why on earth would you think science says otherwise?

    There are not two truths, one for science and another for theology. There is but one truth with many aspects. If theology and science seem to be in conflict, then either the theology is wrong or the science is wrong.

    Indeed, that is what is so bizarre about the BioLogos position. Its writers keep saying that there is no conflict between faith and science, and then they promptly inform us that Theologically, evolution is guided, but scientifically it is not.

  24. 24
    Dionisio says:

    Professor Swamidass:

    You skipped my questions @15 & @16 and commented on posts #17 & #18.

    Are you avoiding certain types of direct questions? Is that some kind of ‘selective’ answering?

    Or you simply missed those posts inadvertently? 🙂

    What about the questions you missed to answer in another thread related to you?

  25. 25
    StephenB says:

    The word “evolution” is very ambiguous. It says nothing about which kind of evolution is being discussed, guided or unguided. When we call someone a “Darwinist,” it is a short-cut way of identifying a proponent of unguided evolution. That’s all. It is meant to clarify, not to insult.

  26. 26
    Dionisio says:

    StephenB @18

    I counted 4 questions in your post, but professor Swamidass started his comments @21 with this statement:

    @18 a fun but rude question.

    Did I count them right?
    Or maybe all your questions are really one question expressed in four different styles or in separate parts?
    However, if there are indeed 4 questions @18, then do you know which question is “fun but rude”?
    🙂

  27. 27
    StephenB says:

    Professor Swamidass, I realize that you shifted the discussion of guided vs unguided evolution to the subject of “embryology,” (@21, but I would prefer to stay on topic. So my response @23 pertains to the original point, namely that the evolutionary process cannot be both guided and unguided.

  28. 28
    Dionisio says:

    Does the word ‘VERITAS’ in ‘Veritas Forum’ mean ‘Truth’?

    Do all the folks who appear in their videos know what that means?

    Just wondering. 🙂

    BTW, is that the same word that appears in this picture? [look carefully]

    http://www.trekearth.com/galle.....239199.htm

  29. 29

    Oh Dionisio, you are very persistent. I can’t answer everything. Sorry. Maybe it will catch my attention later. I am absolutely being selective.

    @23

    “There are not two truths, one for science and another for theology. There is but one truth with many aspects. If theology and science seem to be in conflict, then either the theology is wrong or the science is wrong.”

    I encourage you to learn about the Lutheran notion of paradox. I think you just a stone’s through away from something grand.

    I think there is another way to view the apparent conflict. I think that science is incomplete, and we need the theology to complete it. The problem with science is not that it is wrong, it is that it is incomplete. Theology completes the picture, like a different perspective on the same truth.

    My issue with naturalism is not that I disagree about science itself. Rather it is that they think that science is everything, and deny the role of theology in completing our understanding in science. In that, I think they are wrong.

    To be more specific, God does guide everything. He holds all things together. Science however is limited, and cannot clearly see His guidance. This is no different than so many areas of life, like God’s guidance of our lives, embryology, and frankly everything else. God guides, but science cannot see His guidance. Evolution (if its true) is guided, but science can’t see this guidance. What is so contradictory and complicated about this?

    And before you think I am too crazy. Read Plantiga’s “Where the Conflict Really Lies”. Even if it seems odd to you, I have a logical and coherent position here.

    Maybe VJ can better explain this than I, with his wily philosopher skills =). Yes. I admit. This is a special pleading =).

  30. 30
    Dionisio says:

    StephenB @27

    @21 Professor Swamidass I realize that you shifted the discussion from guided and unguided evolution to the subject of “embryology,” but I would prefer to stay on topic.

    Well, I would prefer to discuss “embryology” with an expert, hence I’m glad professor Swamidass brought it up here. 🙂

    Do you see the ‘m’ words in the titles of the following papers?

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....7/abstract

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....20357/full

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    Dionisio

    However, if there are indeed 4 questions @18, then do you know which question is “fun but rude”?

    I think what the good professor meant was that my theme is a little presumptuous, inasmuch as it has a — “well, which is it?”– kind of flavor. For my part, the more we boil things down to the essence, the better.

  32. 32
    Andre says:

    StephenB

    It is easy to clarify the following….

    namely that the evolutionary process cannot be both guided and unguided.

    Evolution is a highly guided process, and here is why……

    The cell is subject to a plethora of mechanisms that prevent unguided evolution from happening as you know it’s called Programmed Cell death PCD has multiple mechanisms that prevent unguided evolution from occurring in the first place, Apoptosis, Necrosis and a host of other mechanisms, not named and not yet understood.

    Programmed cell death (PCD) is the deliberate suicide of an unwanted cell in a multicellular organism. In contrast to necrosis, which is a form of cell death that results from acute tissue injury and provokes an inflammatory response, PCD is carried out in a regulated process that generally confers advantages during an organism’s life cycle

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/programmed_cell_death.htm

    Unguided processes will never be capable to build a check and balance, error correcting and deliberate kill command system that prevents itself from being unguided, as you know the Darwinian account is that these systems emerged as the only explanation and yet, these are the most evolutionary conserved systems and also most highly regulated systems in all of biology. When they fail unguided evolution does indeed take over and the result for the organism is death, nothing else. There is no such thing as unguided evolution of molecules to man, it is quite frankly impossible.

    PCD prevents unguided evolution and when the PCD systems fail the organism dies from said unguided evolution.

  33. 33
    Dionisio says:

    Prof. S. Joshua Swamidass @29

    Oh Dionisio, you are very persistent.

    That’s an accurate observation. 🙂

    So here we have a persistent questioner vs. a selective answerer. This doesn’t seem like a very encouraging combination for a productive and mutually beneficial discussion, does it?

  34. 34
    Dionisio says:

    Prof. S. Joshua Swamidass @29

    I think you just a stone’s through away from something grand.

    Did you mean this?

    I think you’re just a stone’s throw away from something grand.

  35. 35
    Dionisio says:

    StephenB @31

    For my part, the more we boil things down to the essence, the better.

    Agree, but a selective “question picker” won’t help much in order to boil things down to the essence.

  36. 36
    Dionisio says:

    Andre @32

    Excellent point. Thank you.

  37. 37
    Andre says:

    Engineering as one of the signatures of design is manifested in all of biology.

  38. 38
    StephenB says:

    ProfessorS

    I think there is another way to view the apparent conflict. I think that science is incomplete, and we need the theology to complete it. The problem with science is not that it is wrong, it is that it is incomplete. Theology completes the picture, like a different perspective on the same truth.

    Science could certainly be an incomplete part of a unified whole, but it can hardly be a contrary or contradictory part of the unified whole, otherwise, truth would not be unified, would it?

    My issue with naturalism is not that I disagree about science itself. Rather it is that they think that science is everything, and deny the role of theology in completing our understanding in science. In that, I think they are wrong.

    It isn’t so much that they think science is everything so much as they try to make science say something that it doesn’t say. Worse, they recruit Christians to join in with the clamor. This is outrage of theistic evolution. It is the incoherent notion that a purposeful, mindful God used a purposeless, mindless process to create man. When you put it out there bare and naked, it doesn’t make much sense.

    To be more specific, God does guide everything. He holds all things together. Science however is limited, and cannot clearly see His guidance.

    I say that both the cosmos and life scream design. Nothing appears more designed than a DNA molecule, and there is no evidence to support the proposition that unguided nature could ever produce such a thing. Your position is that God revealed his handiwork in cosmology and then decided to hide his handiwork in biology. There is nothing in science that would suggest such a conclusion. It appears to be the product of unwavering faith in the Neo-Darwinian mechanisms.

    This is no different than so many areas of life, like God’s guidance of our lives, embryology, and frankly everything else. God guides, but science cannot see His guidance. Evolution (if its true) is guided, but science can’t see this guidance. What is so contradictory and complicated about this?

    It is not contradictory to say that science cannot perceive guidance, but it is contradictory to say, at the same time, that it can perceive unguidance, which is what you are saying. However, I would argue that science perceives evidence of intelligent activity, which implies guidance. If information codes are known to be caused only by intelligent agents, which is an empirically-verified fact, then it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that the information code in a DNA molecule was also the product of an intelligent agent. This is a scientific argument based on empirical evidence. It is a much better argument than to say that unguided naturalistic mechanisms, such as random variations and natural selection, acting alone and without guidance, can produce it. The first argument is based on evidence; the second argument is based on faith.

  39. 39
    earthsinterface says:

    StephenB
    “God either guided the process or he didn’t. Man was either the intended result of the process or he wasn’t. Do you not grasp the problem here? Both cannot be true at the same time.”

    Agreed. I believe it is perfectly relevant to bring in exactly what the biblical text actually says since both of these Theistic Evolutionists [Doc Torley & Doc Swami] claim to believe in Jesus Christ. The qiuestion would logically follow, what did Jesus actually believe and say “HE” believed. When speakaing to apostate Jews looking for an excuse to cheat on and dump their wives in divorce he said this:

    Matthew 19:4 (Modern English Version)

    4 He answered, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’”

    Here Jesus references that he believed the bibilical account of special creation by leading off with, “Have you not read ?” He was referring to the Genesis account as a fact. So what exactly did Genesis say ?

    Genesis 2:7 (Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)

    7 “then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

    Rather than gradual evolutionary mechanisms being used [guided or unguided] here, the expression, “formed of the dust of the ground,” refers to the various chemical elements [raw materials] from which all humans are made out of being used from scratch. This even contrasts with Craig Veneter’s often touted “artificial life” where he uses already constructed parts and components [cell membrane, nanomachines, etc] along with already existing plagerized information of DNA and calling it new life. Bottom line here is nowhere do we find evidence of man from Apes, Chimps or any other mythical creature with African Negroid features [which is nothing more than a biggoted racist Victorian Era view of imaginary inferior races to justify Imperialism] to arrive at modern man.

    Here is something else I think many people miss. Eve did not evolve from an Ape or Chimp, but rather by means of special creation was engineered and fashioned from Adam.

    Genesis 2:21-22 (Common English Bible)

    21 “So the Lord God put the human into a deep and heavy sleep, and took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh over it. 22 With the rib taken from the human, the Lord God fashioned a woman and brought her to the human being.”

    This is the account Jesus referenced as his belief, not some Darwinian apostate later day metaphysics. If what Torley and Swami say is true, then Jesus Christ was a liar.

    StephenB
    “The word “evolution” is very ambiguous.”

    Correct and it continues to grow in ambiguity day by day.

    StephenB
    “It says nothing about which kind of evolution is being discussed, guided or unguided. When we call someone a “Darwinist,” it is a short-cut way of identifying a proponent of unguided evolution. That’s all. It is meant to clarify, not to insult.

    There should be no question of what the term “Darwinist” really means. The fact is, even an Theistic Evolutionist is in fact Darwinian. The whole concept of today’s evolutionary theory was invented by a disgruntled man who blamed God for not saving his daughter [something which cannot even remotely be scientifically proved] along with all his other metaphysical “A Creator wouldn’t do such and such” faith affirmations throughout the man’s literature and that of his followers ever since. But it’s highly important to bring in and reference the biblical text since both men claim Jesus as their savior. Science in no way can be discussed here with this subject and I do not care what their theistic evolutionary leanings are caused, whether caving into “peer-pressure” or “fear of man” in their academic world. Why would any Christian care about what the academic world thinks, as long as their good conduct is living proof of an existing creator ? There is an entire historical prescedant of religious compromise from the Nation of Israel down through Christianity where many have sought acceptance in the world around them.

    Bottomline, either Jesus was telling the truth or he was a bald faced liar.

  40. 40
    Andre says:

    earthsinterface

    I really liked your post , thank you. I want to add the Hebrew word for formed used in Genesis is literally a creative act…. the God of the universe got his hands dirty to make you, that means something way beyond any unintended purpose or consequence.

    I agree with you, either Jesus was speaking absolute truth or he was just a liar and a conman.

  41. 41
    earthsinterface says:

    Andre

    “I agree with you, either Jesus was speaking absolute truth or he was just a liar and a conman.”

    Bringing up religion here with regards the biblical text is perfectly logical since both these men claim Jesus as their God I would presume. The discussion of any type of science here is merely a waste of time because their are so many faith affirmations being made which have zero to do with science. Again, just a waste of time.

    Even creationists and IDists cannot come out straight and say this is how life is made, otherwise patented creation kits would bee sold all over the place and fortunes would be made and we’d have no mistakes in the invetion of pharmaceuticals, etc. Here is what Ecclesiastes says:

    Eccesiastes 4:11 International Standard Version

    11 “He made everything appropriate in its time. He also placed eternity within them—yet, no person can fully comprehend what God is doing from beginning to end.”

    Mankind has all eternity to research and discover, but will not always know and understand everything. Considering the present degradation of things in out natural world, it should be obvious the present academia and the corporate industrial science world which is funding it, clearly they are on the wrong track. Again, discussing any science in this OP is a waste of anyone’s valuable time.

  42. 42
    jerry says:

    I have no animosity to Dr. Hunter

    This is my poor wording. I was commenting on Dr. Torley’s tone but my comment was thrown into comments about you. So I apologize for my inadequate writing.

    I still maintain that you do not understand ID and you parse your words to make what you actually believe a little bit difficult to understand. I will comment more on the lack of understanding of ID on the other thread since you left a longer comment about ID there and arguments.

  43. 43
    DATCG says:

    VJ Torley stated…

    13. In the comments to one of your posts, you thanked a reader for linking to an article stating that the protein vitellogenin confers several beneficial effects upon bees, in addition to being used to make egg yolks. Humans possess a broken copy of the gene which makes this protein; they no longer need it. So my final question is: why do you not consider this gene to be vestigial – especially when Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins’s claim that the remaining gene fragments in human beings are functional has been soundly refuted by Dr. Dennis Venema?

    1) Is it your assumption humans have a “broken copy?” of the gene? This is a typical line of an unguided, blind process. But how do you know it’s true and not an artifact of Common Design? Research is only beginning to open up these areas once thought to be JUNK. That is what Dr. Tomkins addressed in his research. I did not see Dr. Venema rebut his findings of the specific VTG 150 base fragment.

    2) Are you stating the findings by Dr. Tomkins of the VTG 150base fragment is not functional? Are you stating Dr. Venema has denied it is functional? Are you stating the VTG 150 fragment is still only a pseudogene? Or, does it have function? I’m not clear based upon your comment. As you state, “fragments” as in more than one. Whereas Dr. Tomkins is discussing the specific VTG 150 base remnant.

    3) Readers here should read both articles carefully. Compare the dismissive tone by Dr. Venema of Dr. Tomkins and his readers, and read Dr. Tomkins research on the subject and his tone as well. Then come to their own informed conclusion. In my opinion, Dr. Venema did not “soundly refute” Dr. Tomkins on the VTG fragment, but failed to do so.

    4) Don’t you think Dr. Tomkins has a right to respond to Dr. Venema’s article before calling a victor? Dr. Tomkins wrote his article Oct 2015 on specific research of the VTG fragment in question. Readers should know Dr. Venema responded to Dr. Tomkin starting March 2016 and only finished his response April 21, 2016. To be gracious should you not allow Dr. Tomkins a similar time-frame to respond to Dr. Venema?

    It would be an enjoyable debate and discussion to observe rather than dismiss it. Maybe some of Dr. Tomkins readers like me may learn something? And maybe, God forbid Dr. Venema’s readers would learn something new as well? Maybe we all do?

    5) Dr. Venema downplayed the significance of Dr. Tomkins research findings, alluding that Dr. Tompkins intentionally left out other information to his readers, noting his readers are not biologist, therefore not aware of Dr. Tomkins omissions. Is Dr. Venema stating Dr. Tomkins intentionally mislead his readers? Do you believe Dr. Tomkins intentionally deceives his readers?

    That’s quite a charge if so, and one Dr. Tomkins will need to address. Again, we should wait to see Dr. Tomkins response and if he addresses the contention by Dr. Venema that a false conclusion is made if not including Dr. Venema’s points. His point were there are other fragments around the area.

    Could it be that Dr. Tomkins will investigate and research other segments and remnants at a later date? Did Dr. Venema show there are no functions in other “related” fragments? I did not see where in his article he did the research himself to show they are pseudogenes. Was this done by other researchers? I’ve not had time to fully review. Does more research need to be done by both sides in the debate before such conclusions are drawn? What if Dr. Tomkins reviews another fragment and finds a function?

    6) Does Dr. Venema’s charge that Dr. Tomkins is not addressing his article to biologist limit the ability of you, VJ Torley to judge either article? Are you a biologist? Can only biologist comprehend and make informed opinion on the two articles and scientist opinions? Or, does this ironically shine a light on discrimination on university campuses against scientist like Dr. Tomkins? See his credentials…

    Dr. Tomkins brief Bio…

    Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins earned a master’s degree in plant science in 1990 from the University of Idaho, where he performed research in plant hormones. He received his PhD. in Genetics from Clemson University in 1996. While at Clemson, he worked as a research technician in a plant breeding/genetics program, with a research focus in the area of quantitative and physiological genetics in soybean. After receiving his Ph.D., he worked at a genomics institute and became a faculty member in the Department of Genetics and Biochemistry at Clemson.

    7) Having seen Dr. Tomkins bio, knowing he received a PhD, and was faculty member in Department of Genetics and Biochemistry at Clemson. If Dr. Tomkins claimed he no longer believed in unguided, blind process of Macro Evolution and Common Descent, would he lose his position on the faculty at Clemson? Like Dr. Gonzales lost his position? What would happen if he did not have tenure?

    Would this prevent biologist from seeing his research?
    Do such intimidation tactics prevent other biologist from being honest in their opinions and therefore, indeed many people do not have freedom of thought to discuss openly such issues today? Without fear of retribution?

    Dr. Venema appears to believe only biologist who believe like him can ascertain truth in science on macro-evolution and common descent. And that all others are inferior. Maybe if the playing field were equal and colleges encouraged honest, open debate in science, more biologist would be reading Dr. Tomkins research. Wrong or right, more eyes would see, debate and discuss the legitimacy of his findings and conclusions.

    8) Can you please point out where Dr. Tomkins stated, “… the remaining gene fragments in human beings are functional.” Is that statement in Dr. Tomkin’s article you linked? I may have missed it, but could not find “the remaining gene fragments in human beings are functional” in his main article or Summary statement.

    I read where he addresses Specific Region, 150 base remnant of VTG pseudogene. He cites a claim about the specific fragment it is a pseudogene. Dr. Tomkins then writes his Materials and Methods. Then cites the Fragment within a Functional Gene, next as a Transcriptional Factor Binding Domain. Then he addresses the “Alleged Genomic Synteny of VTG Fragment.” Finally, his Summary…

    The BioLogos organization promotes hypothetical broad-scale vertebrate macroevolution as real science (Luskin 2014). One of the chief arguments they put forth as evolutionary proof is the idea that the human genome contains the 150 base remnant of an eggyolk related vitellogenin (vtg) gene acquired through descent from a common ancestor shared with chicken. However, research described in this report shows that the alleged vtg fragment in human is only 62% identical to its alignable counterpart in the chicken vtg1 gene (exon 3). Moreover, the actual chicken vtg1 gene is 42,637 bases long (not including promoter sequence) so the alleged vtg fragment in human actually represents less than 1% of the original ancestral gene. Even in an evolutionary sense, to say that a pseudogene can be identified by only 0.35% of the original sequence is quite a stretch of the Darwinian paradigm.

    Do you disagree with his conclusion it’s a stretch? Is he intentionally misleading anyone with this information?

    However, the real story is that the alleged 150 base vtg sequence is not a pseudogene remnant at all, but a functional enhancer element in the fifth intron of a “genomic address messenger” (GAM) gene. This particular GAM gene produces long noncoding RNAs that have been experimentally shown to selectively inhibit the translation of known target genes, a majority of which have been implicated in a variety of human diseases. Messenger RNAs from this particular gene are also known to be expressed in a variety of human brain tissues in both fetal and mature subjects in three separate studies.

    Do you disagree the alleged 150 base vtg sequence is a “functional enhancer element in the fifth intron..” of the GAM gene?

    All of the combinatorial data presented in this report clearly show that the alleged vtg pseudogene fragment is a functional enhancer element in a GAM gene expressed in the human brain—overturning the idea that this sequence is an egg-laying pseudogene genomic fossil.

    Follow up questions. Do you think new research on “JUNK” DNA will turn up more functional regulatory code on top of code, or less?

    Do you think new research on pseudogenes will turn up more regulatory code on top of code or less?

    Is this type of research good to do?

    To look at alleged pseudogenes and determine if within the newly found function a disease might be caused by random mutation?

  44. 44
    DATCG says:

    VJ Torley,
    I will not have time to check in today. Will likely do so later tonight or tomorrow morning. One area I see raised is other fragments need to be investigated. And the question is how much more do these fragments add to the informational base in relation to Dr. Venema’s claims. How much “leftover” is left over percentage wise. And then, how much is aligned, fully identicial. And how many of the fragments are functional?

  45. 45
    Origenes says:

    Swamidass: From a scientific viewpoint, evolution is “apparently” unguided, as far as we can currently tell.

    I think it is more accurate to say that, according to naturalistic science, evolution is guided, but exclusively by the four fundamental laws of nature.

    Swamidass: From a theological viewpoint, God created us with great intention and care. If He used evolution to do it, He was thoroughly involved at every step, in the same way he “knits us together in our mother’s womb.”

    Do you hold that the universe and the four fundamental laws of nature are sufficient to explain the evolution of the human being? Are you saying that God fine-tuned the universe and the four fundamental laws of nature to such an extent that the human being must necessarily follow?

    I’m asking, because, for now, this is the only possibility I can come up with for naturalistic science and theology to not contradict each other.

  46. 46

    @43

    I’m probably gonna regret doing this, but I will make one small comment there.

    I dispute Tompkins case that his specific 150bp vtg fragment is functional in the relevant sense. Most of what we observe in biology is inconsequential. We know this, because most things we tinker with have no discernable effect. All Tomkins has show is that this fragment (ignoring all the rest) “does something.” This is tenuous too, because the dataset he is looking at is noisy, we don’t even know this for sure. He really needs to show that it “does something important (at the level of the organism, like cause disease when disrupted).” There is absolutely zero evidence that the vtg fragment he points to is important. Chances are very high that it is not.

    Moreover, Tomkins has ignored all the other similar fragments in that area. You can go look at the data yourself. This is not Venema’s invention.

    Even he was to be successful at all this, he has to show that this is not exaptation to make a strong case. This, of course, is a very hard problem. I know of no of methodology to do this, though some of the other experts might. Tomkins strategy is ignore this possibility entirely. I’m sympathetic. If he raises this possibility, it becomes obvious he has not ruled it out, so he dare not speak the word.

    On a theological level, I find this his line of reasoning puzzling. It seems like the argument is that God cannot make a human genome that looks different than a chimp’s. Obviously, that can’t be true. God can do anything, including this. Apparently leaving evidence to help Tompkins here was not part of God’s design goals. Why not? Maybe because he doesn’t care about proving evolution wrong as much as do we?

    As for Tompkin’s work. I think it is great. Its hard being on the losing side of a public argument, and I respect him for that. He actually tries to engage the data and writes his thoughts in papers. I appreciate that. It is way better than writing books. Because he publishes his work this way, it is easier to more precisely explain its problems, and to recognize the moments when he might be onto something the rest of us missed. He should keep doing this, even though he appears to be wrong in this specific instance.

  47. 47
    bill cole says:

    VJT

    13. In the comments to one of your posts, you thanked a reader for linking to an article stating that the protein vitellogenin confers several beneficial effects upon bees, in addition to being used to make egg yolks. Humans possess a broken copy of the gene which makes this protein; they no longer need it. So my final question is: why do you not consider this gene to be vestigial – especially when Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins’s claim that the remaining gene fragments in human beings are functional has been soundly refuted by Dr. Dennis Venema?

    I would also welcome readers’ comments on the questions I posed to Dr. Hunter.

    Solidly refuted is a stretch. I think he has made a counter argument. The core of Dr Hunters arguments are based on the sequential space of the genome and proteins. No one has been able to describe a reasonable way nature can navigate through this. I have not seen any argument that Dr Swamisass or you have come up with to competently challenge Cornelius. We have no idea how a novel DNA functional sequence forms a new kind and without this the common ancestor hypothesis is a “just so” story at best, and intentionally misleading the public at worst.

  48. 48
    Dr JDD says:

    Prof Swamidass:

    You make a few straw man arguments that are really poor arguments I am afraid to support the TE position.

    For example – you play the ad hominem card of “do a PhD in Biology” line however there are plenty of people who have done just that and reject TE or UCD. Indeed, does not Dr Hunter hold a PhD in the biological sciences?

    So to extend that further you speak as though your position is more reasonable as it is mainstream but this is just not the case. The taught and standard view in evo biology is in fact as you well know that Dariwinism/Neutral theory/whatever rules and it is entirely naturalistic in origin. The loudest proponents of evo are staunch atheists. Thus you yourself, using the mainstream PhD in biology argument do not adhere to the mainstream consensus (not that consensus really counts for anything). Which makes it odd to me that you would use this argument to claim other people’s inability to comment or understand the evidence for CD.

    Secondly, a major flaw I’m afraid to say is in your theology. You are making statements about how and why God could or would have done something and because He didn’t (or did) it infers He didn’t care that much about people believing if that is true or not.

    How can you claim to know what is the Mind of God? This is why we have and rely on Scriptures as God ‘s revealed Word. Otherwise it’s anyone’s guessing game what God’s purposes are.

    Yet we read in the Bible that by faith we understand that the worlds were formed at God’s command. We learn that there is enough evidence in nature to irrefutably point to a Creator God. Yet the whole point and premise of evo is that there is no need for a God because nature can do it. These things are in direct opposition yet This is the mainstream view – nature can account for everything around us.

    Maybe if we want to speculate what God’s purposes are (which I say is dangerous if not revealed in His Word) we could equally speculate that He chose this path of DNA, genetic codes, homology, etc. to fulfill the Scripture where it says that “Where is the wise man of this age? Where is the scholar? Has God not made the wisdom of man foolishness?” And when you read Psalms you find out that a fool is one that says there is no God. Personally I think that is more likely than “God doesn’t care if you believe in evolution otherwise he would have made it obvious” suggestion.

    It is essentially a faith position primarily. You appear to have faith – that Jesus died and was resurrected. Presumably you believe then Jesus’ claim he was God incarnate? So then Jesus verifying the Flood occurred, that they were created man and woman From the beginning – does your biology cause you to reject these words of the Living God over what man says? I personally find this odd. Yet many do this to allow mans version to rule.

    Presumably your faith allows you to believe in the works (miracles) He performed. How do you think science could verify these? More pertinently, for example when Jesus created bread ex nihilo – if your scientifically examined that bread, do you think you could have determined that was its source or origin using the scientific method? Or do you think the scientific method would have implied it was bread, flour, salt, water and yeast mixed and baked at high temperature, unable to show that in fact it was made out of nothing, miraculously.

    Thus is the same of Creation: one giant miracle.

  49. 49

    @48

    So conversation is rapidly degrading here. Very sad. I was enjoying the respite.

    It seems you mistake me for a believer in scientism. I do not believe science is the only way to truth, or even a particularly good way to Truth.

    You misunderstand me horribly. I explicitly reject the notion that naturalistic evolution is sufficient to explain our origins. I believe God created us. How could we miss each other here? I keep repeating myself on that point.

    I’m not even arguing evolution is True, just that it is a (at minimum) a useful framework (e.g. a helpful explanatory framework) that has some (ultimately non-definitive) evidence when we do science. It could be a useful framework, but ultimately false. Even if it is “true” it is certainly woefully incomplete. So I get why trained people reject it. It might be more than that, but I am not going to die on that hill. Though this view is not trumpeted by the atheists (who try and make big T Truth claims here), my approach is considered part of mainstream science (e.g. look at Owen Gingerich, some members of BioLogos, and more). The AAAS, an association of scientists, has no problem with it either. Remember, I am not an atheistic evolutionist. I am a Christian theistic evolutionist. These are worlds apart in philosophy and theology, but clearly within the bounds of mainstream science. Part of the problem is that there is not enough public people like me showing how evolution is not synonymous with hard naturalism claims. That is our fault. We are trying to fix that. Which is why I am talking to you here.

    I do believe in creation. I do believe in miracles. I believe that Jesus is God incarnate and all the core Christian theology. I believe these things, not because science tells me, but because I trust the Bible. We don’t have scientific evidence for most of the miracles in the BIble (the Resurrection being an important exception). I’m okay with that, because science is limited, and belief comes from trust in Jesus and His Word. Therefor, I can believe things that I cannot prove with science. I think my understanding from Scripture takes priority over my understanding from science.

    I don’t know God’s Mind. Far from it. On the theological side, I am just asking questions that I am working through. I am figuring out what I think here. I find these question to be the most interesting part of the debate. I don’t think I know the answer yet. If you go to my blog, you’ll see that I asked theologians to reply. Some have. You are taking a stab at it too. That is great.

    “Maybe if we want to speculate what God’s purposes are (which I say is dangerous if not revealed in His Word) we could equally speculate that He chose this path of DNA, genetic codes, homology, etc. to fulfill the Scripture where it says that “Where is the wise man of this age? Where is the scholar? Has God not made the wisdom of man foolishness?””

    Frankly, I agree with that. I makes sense to me. That is pretty much along the lines that I think. If that is true though, I makes me even more skeptical that ID could be successful in science. Science might just be too limited. Maybe God wants to frustrate the wisdom of our world (i.e. science). That is why I do not trust science very much.

    And, I don’t say mainstream to mean it is correct. Just to explain the context from which I am speaking. That is my methodological starting point, with all its limits and strengths.

    And to be clear, I do not reject God’s Word. I believe the Bible is Inerrant and Infallible.

    I think maybe you see the work “evolutionist” and assume I am a confused hybrid between Dawkins and a Christian. We probably have much more in common than you think. I’m recognizably Christian. I just see science differently than many. I don’t trust it so much.

  50. 50
    bill cole says:

    Dr Swamidass

    I do believe in creation. I do believe in miracles. I believe that Jesus is God incarnate and all the core Christian theology. I believe these things, not because science tells me, but because I trust the Bible. We don’t have scientific evidence for most of the miracles in the BIble (the Resurrection being an important exception). I’m okay with that, because science is limited, and belief comes from trust in Jesus and His Word. Therefor, I can believe things that I cannot prove with science. I think my understanding from Scripture takes priority over my understanding from science.

    What do think is the most compelling evidence for the resurrection?

  51. 51
    vjtorley says:

    Hi everyone,

    I’d just like to briefly comment on StephenB’s statement:

    “God either guided the process or he didn’t. Man was either the intended result of the process or he wasn’t. Do you not grasp the problem here? Both cannot be true at the same time.”

    Professor Swamidass has affirmed his belief that God designed us all. However, this statement can be understood in two senses: as referring to the product alone (in this case, Homo sapiens) or as referring to the process that generates the product.

    In a letter to J. Walker of Scarborough on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, dated May 22, 1868, John Henry Newman (who was a Catholic priest at the time, but who was later made a cardinal), wrote:

    As to the Divine Design, is it not an instance of incomprehensibly and infinitely marvellous Wisdom and Design to have given certain laws to matter millions of ages ago, which have surely and precisely worked out, in the long course of those ages, those effects which He from the first proposed. Mr Darwin’s theory need not then to be atheistical, be it true or not; it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of Divine Prescience and Skill. Perhaps your friend has got a surer clue to guide him than I have, who have never studied the question, and I do not [see] that ‘the accidental evolution of organic beings’ is inconsistent with divine design — It is accidental to us, not to God.

    Newman seems to be arguing here that from a Divine perspective, man could still be designed, even if he were the outcome of a series of cosmic accidents, so long as God foresaw (and intended) that those accidents would lead to us.

    As far as I can tell, Intelligent Design is compatible with Newman’s “thin” view of design. An Intelligent Design theorist would, however, point out that the initial conditions of the cosmos must have been extremely information-rich (i.e fine-tuned to an extraordinary degree), in order for this to happen, and that scientists can discover this fine-tuning, enabling us to infer that we are indeed intelligently designed.

    Professor Swamidass’s position may be akin to that of John Henry Newman, making him what we would call a “front-loader.” In his post, Evidence and Evolution, in response to the question, “What do you think of Michael Behe’s response to this exchange?”, Professor Swamidass writes:

    In particular, Dr. Behe points out that the argument he makes for design is entirely separate from common descent. He goes so far as to explain that the design for molecular machines can be injected into the universe by carefully chosen initial conditions for the Big Bang (ie. fine tuning). In this proposal, entirely natural mechanisms (like neutral theory) would correctly (but incompletely) describe our world. He compares evolution to a “trick shot” in billiards, where the initial conditions and skill of the player conspire to make the improbable certain, all while using entirely natural mechanisms.

    I would like to ask Professor Swamidass is he thinks that “entirely natural mechanisms” can explain the course of human evolution (leading him to affirm the design of the product only), or whether he believes that some of the beneficial mutations that gave rise to us were directed by God (which would commit him to belief in the design of the process, as well as the product). Personally, I favor the second option: I think that the front-loading described by Behe would require even more work on God’s part than the occasional directed mutation. It would also work only if quantum mechanics is a deterministic process – which has not been scientifically ruled out, by the way.

    Regardless of which response Professor Swamidass gives, I hope that readers will understand that his position is compatible with Intelligent Design, and treat him with charity and respect.

    I might add that Dr. Hunter is welcome to comment here, also.

  52. 52
    bill cole says:

    VJT

    5. Do you also accept that the hypothesis that humans and chimps share a common ancestor is not a hypothesis about mechanisms as such (or what Aristotle would describe as efficient causes) but rather, about material causes – i.e. the raw material from which the human body was originally derived, regardless of the process involved, with the “raw material” in this case being the body of the supposed common ancestor of man and chimp? What I’m saying here is that the hypothesis of common ancestry, taken by itself, is agnostic as to whether the human mind originally arose from matter, or whether human evolution was guided or unguided. Do you agree? If not, why not?

    IMHO common decent needs a mechanism to be a testable hypothesis. If you cannot describe how kind A turns into kind B then according to Dr Swamidass you don’t have real science you have an inference. There is a large contradiction in the argument that needs to be sorted out.

  53. 53
    Mung says:

    Here’s what Dr. Hunter wrote:

    What I am interested in are the arguments and evidences for evolution. Ever since Darwin, evolutionists have insisted that their idea is undeniable — beyond all reasonable doubt. I find that complete certainty to be fascinating. So I search, find, analyze and categorize every justification and explanation for that conclusion that I can find.

    My goal is to find the strongest, most powerful, such arguments and evidences, and to understand how we can have such certainty.

    I find that commendable. Critics wonder how Christians can be so certain. It’s only fair to question how they can be so certain, especially given how often evolution is a factor.

    And I still think the OP does a disservice to Dr. Hunter.

  54. 54

    Let me start by saying that I understand why my position is confusing. One person commented, “you are all over the place.” I imagine you sense both a great deal of common ground with me, and also some very important disagreements, but cannot quite figure out how to parse this all out. This is not because I am incoherent. I just come from a position that you are probably less familiar with because it is uncommon, even among theistic evolutionists.

    Vincent asked what type of theistic evolutionist I am. I am a theistic evolutionist in the mold of Owen Gingerich, the famed astronomer and historian of science at Harvard. His work stands out as particularly illuminating. As a historian, he has a gift for making sense of the complicated details of the ID movement, in light of past conflicts between science and religious (like geocentricism).

    Before I explain that more, let me hit on the key theological details.

    I am 100% certain God was necessary to bring about the human race. This makes me a creationist. Moreover, I believe in a literal Adam and Eve and see no reason to doubt the Biblical account in Genesis 1 and 2. I believe it entirely. From this account, I know that God did in fact directly intervene in the creation of man. I’m fond of saying, “evolution cannot create an immortal soul.” What is the exact nature and mechanism of this intervention?

    “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” (Prov. 25:2)

    At this point we approach a profound mystery that I do not expect to ever precisely understand, and I doubt anyone that claims they do. Because I start with the notion of mystery here, I have a settled agnosticism about mechanism. It would take a great deal of evidence to dislodge me from this, in conjunction with some very careful theological and philosophical work. I am very doubtful this is “knowable” any more than “knowing” the mind of God could be independent of Scripture.

    It is quite remarkable to me how most just assume that I believe science over the Bible. Actually, it is exactly the opposite. I doubt science, because I am so acutely aware of its profound and unresolvable limits. The Bible, however, I trust entirely.

    As an agnostic here, as one who embraces mystery, I find camaraderie with unlikely people. Newman’s description seems possible, as does Michael Behe, Michael Denton, and Francis Collins, though I would insist that God had to be directly (primary rather than secondary cause) involved at some point in the creation of Adam, and this “frontloading” idea feels a bit to deistic for me (e.g. how could that explain the Resurrection or an immortal soul?). I also find reasonable BB Warfield, Gershem Manchen, and Williams Jennings Bryan (of the Scopes trial and the Fundamentalist movement), who all agreed with all of common descent except the common descent of man. In a sense, that is almost exactly my position. I am also comfortable with John Walton’s position (who believes in literal six creation and a historical Adam and Eve). I love the theology being considered here, and there is a lot more to be proposed. As an agnostic, I embrace the diversity as strong evidence that there are multiple ways to harmonize the scientific and Biblical accounts.

    This places me squarely in orthodox Christianity. I affirm all of the creeds, including the Lausanne covenant and believe the Bible is Infallible and Inerrant. I’m just not sure how anyone could justifiably doubt my place in the Church. It makes no sense how, with this clear statement of faith, why people constantly mistake me for a deist or atheist.

    =============

    That being said there are some big differences and departures I take from the ID movement. This, I perceive, is what is so befuddling to many as they read my comments. We agree on so much, but then there is this schism in many of my replies, where I just go in an entirely different direction than you.

    I am a Gingerich-ian theistic evolutionist, and it helps to explain the history of the ID movement and his relationship with ID. It really shaped my understanding, and I essentially agree with him on all the major scientific points.

    We need some context here though. ID argues that “design” in nature (an artifact of God’s creative work) is identifiable entirely within the confines of science. For example, William Dembski argues in Reinstating Design within Science in 1998,
    ‘Design always remains a live option in biology. A priori prohibitions against design are easily countered, especially in an age of diversity and multiculturalism where it is all too easy to ask, “Who sets the rules for science?”’

    This quote looms large in my mind when I say, “I use the rules of mainstream science.” For many ID theorists, they are mounting a challenge to the rules in science. Right here, Dembski is arguing to fork off a new variant of science where he can set the rules by his terms. He certainly has tried, but he has not convinced me that this justified. It seems ill advised.

    Even granting Dembski his rule change, there are problems. A distinction is made here between “design,” which might fall in science’s domain, and “God,” who would not. Many theistic evolutionists (including myself)—acutely aware science’s limits and community, and reticent to change science’s rules—were very skeptical that science could detect God’s design in nature. I do not doubt God’s power, involvement, or design in our world, but I do doubt science’s ability (even with Dembski’s tweaks) to rightly see it rightly. My dissent from ID is solidly rooted in doubt of science.

    ID goes on to argue that the science behind evolution is the weak point in the argument for atheism. For the example, the Discovery Institute explained in The Wedge Document in 1999,
    ‘If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a ‘wedge’ that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points.’

    The weak point in atheism, according to the Discovery Institute, is scientific evidence for evolution. Here they are echoing almost every ID author’s work. Atheists certainly do argue that evolution is strong evidence against God, and evolution is the “wedge” point by which atheism will be destroyed.

    I just disagree. This is not the weakest point. Darwinism dubiously extends from evolution far beyond science’s limits, and this is where I see the weakest point. My dissent from Darwinism (and Dawkins) is rooted in doubt of science’s ability to disprove God. Theistic evolutionists, like me, dispute the logical jump from evolution to atheism is totally absurd. This jump, instead, is the true weak point in atheism. I’ll point out that even most atheists agree with us here. See this dialogue I had with an atheist just a few months ago about this. The atheist agrees strongly with this, and summarily dismisses Dawkins as absurd. I like that. Did you know that dismissing Dawkins could be a place of common ground with atheists? (watch the first question I ask Soazig. She is amazing.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gooQsVJ6Xl8?t=23m

    Instead of taking this easy path, in which atheists actually agree with us, ID starts with the a priori assumption (historically speaking) that the evidence against evolution is strong and convincing. Examples of this claim are Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton in 1985 and Philip E. Johnson’s book Darwin on Trial in 1991. Likewise, Phillip Johnson argues in 1999 in Touchstone magazine,
    “[Evolutionists] realize at some level that they cannot win the argument on the basis of evidence, and therefore must win it by imposing a definition of science that disqualifies their critics regardless of the evidence.”

    See the rules challenge here again? And he was saying this as early as 1987. Phillip Johnson goes on to explain:
    “My sense is that the battle against the Darwinian mechanism has already been won at the intellectual level, although not at the political level.”

    This “sense” that the intellectual battle has already been won is the rationale for political anti-evolutionism, and lies at the heart of the ID movement. This is only a “sense” and is only embodied in a very small number of populist thinkers. Remarkably, they did not even convince more than a very small fraction of Christian academics (see the American Scientific Affiliation for the history there). It turns out that many theistic evolutionists like myself, however, find the arguments against evolution to be much weaker than Dawkin-esque absurd logic of many scientific atheists. We see that science is a specific culture with a specific way of understanding the world, and may not understand our arguments, even if they were true. My dissent from anti-evolutionism, again, is rooted in doubt of science ability to understand the ID argument, and a different approach to the New Atheists.

    Even if we reject evolution entirely and believe creation, all these reasons for doubting the DI, in my opinion, still stand. These reasons are rooted in doubt of science and knowledge of its limits. Even if evolution is wrong, we should doubt science’s ability to rightly see this. Frankly, I doubt any human effort to bring us to God.

    Owen Gingerich’s understanding of evolution is instructive. It is very close to mine. I am a Gingerich-ian theistic evolutionist. He is an astronomer and historian of science a Harvard. He is also a Christian and a theistic evolutionist. He is comfortable with common descent and also thinks that God directed evolution. In 1992, as the Intelligent Design movement was forming, he wrote of Darwin on Trial and Phil E. Johnson’s confidence that Intelligent Design would topple evolution,
    “his strategy appears to invoke a frontal attack on evolution. Lawyers seek proofs . . . somehow supposing that if he could show that evolution has no proofs, it would crumble. That, I think, is misguided.”

    As a Christian, of course Gingerich believes in God and that God may directly change the course of evolution. Gingerich, however, doubts that science will ever be able to detect or prove God’s direction:
    “As a Christian theist, I believe that [evolution] is part of God’s design. Whether God designed the universe at the outset so that the appropriate mechanisms could arise in the course of time, or whether God gives an occasional timely input is something that science, by its very nature, will probably never be able to fathom.”

    The agnosticism here, is very similar to mine. I find it unfathomable. In the context of science, he sees evolution explaining a host of important patterns in biology, so evolution is a good guide for future research.
    “But as a scientist, I accept evolution as the appropriate explanatory structure to guide research into the origins and affinities of the kingdoms of living organisms.”

    His endorsement of evolution is tenuous. Here, he only explains that evolution makes sense from within the limits of science. Wisely, he does not insist the Church accept evolution in its doctrine, or argue strongly that it is certainly true. Gingerich believes in creation and sees evidence for design in nature, but he doubts strongly science’s ability to prove design. I am a theistic evolutionist in this mold. I mainly think it evolution is an “appropriate explanatory structure to guide research,” and have amply demonstrated this in my response to critiques in the last few days.

    I don’t think evolution is True because I do not believe science can really make capital T Truth claims. That is why I think it is perfectly dignified to reject evolution entirely in the Church, and why I really appreciate Todd Woods and Kurt Wise in the YEC camp. If I can dignify them, and I do, I can certainly find common ground across the spectrum. In the progressive evolutionist camp, I very much appreciate Erica Carlson at Purdue, and would encourage you to check out her work. My goal is not and never has been to convince people to be theistic evolutionists. Though I am happy to explain myself to whoever wants to know (as I apparently a right now).

    Moving on in our story, in the darkness of the Dover Trial in 2005, Gingerich was frequently asked to comment on Intelligent Design. He writes about how he sees the difference between atheistic and theistic evolution, talking about mutations “inspired” by God,
    “Most mutations are disasters, but perhaps some inspired few are not. Can mutations be inspired? Here is the ideological watershed, the division between atheistic evolution and theistic evolution, and frankly it lies beyond science to prove the matter one way or the other.”

    Here is an interesting touch point. Gingerich and Michael Behe both believe the overall story of evolution is approximately correct, and that God “inspired” at least some mutations. Behe and Gingerich disagree, however, about science’s limits. Behe bets his reputation and witness on science’s ability to prove God’s “inspiration.” Gingerich, however, doubts if science could ever prove this; God’s action lies “beyond science.” Explaining further, Gingerich argues that evolution is currently more useful than Intelligent Design to scientists,
    “[Intelligent Design] does not explain the temporal or geographical distribution of species, or the intricate relationships of the DNA coding. [Intelligent Design] is interesting as a philosophical idea, but it does not replace the scientific explanations that evolution offers.”

    This brings Gingerich to his final verdict, also written in 2005,
    “I . . . believe in intelligent design, lowercase ‘i’ and ‘d’. But I have trouble with Intelligent Design – uppercase ‘I’ and ‘D’ – a movement widely seen as anti-evolutionist.”

    There is wisdom in this statement. Though written in 2005 in the darkness of Dover, Gingerich already knew in 1992 that a “frontal attack” on evolution would fail. He knew our arguments would not convince most scientists. He doubted science itself would ever see God. He feared the ID would struggle in science. He had to dissent from ID. This is exactly my position now.

    I would also add, quite significantly, the AAAS holds this position too. I represent the AAAS as I work with seminaries to incorporate mainstream science into their seminary curriculums (the Science for Seminaries Program). They explicitly exclude the ID movement because scientists reject it. Lowercase intelligent design, however, is allowed. If you are willing to play by those rules, you do not actually have to be kicked out of science to believe in design, and I am entirely okay with that.

    The AAAS has made it very important to them to make space in science for people like me. That is why I, currently, can even have this conversation with you as an untenured professor at a secular university. They made some fair rules. I am willing to play by them. In appreciation, they do not kick my out of science, and invite me to help explain science to religious communities on behalf of all scientists. I have the most profound respect for my colleagues for their wisdom in this. I can honestly tell you, science is not anti-Christian in any way. My colleagues embrace me.

    ========

    This now brings us to an ongoing misunderstanding I see in the comments about “explanatory frameworks” (i.e. theories) and hypotheses. Some here correctly note that common descent and evolution are not directly testable, and are inferences. They wonder why the design inference can’t take a similar place in science. It seems unfair that you are being excluded.

    From a historical point of view, this is really remarkable because this exact confusion that Gingerich clearly identified in the ID movement in the early 1990s. The whole article is worth reading closely, but frankly I am just awe-struck by Gingerich’s brilliant assessment of ID in 1992.

    “In closing my review of Darwin on Trial, I expressed my frustration by Johnson’s apparent lack of appreciation about how science works…I firmly believe that science concerns itself mostly with building coherent patterns of explanation, and rather little with proof. Lawyers seek proofs, and that’s why I said that Phil Johnson was approaching science like a lawyer, somehow supposing that if he could show that evolution has no proofs, it would crumble. That, I think, is misguided.”http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1992/PSCF12-92Gingerich.html

    This is why ID really struggles in science. It is true, evolution and common descent are “inferences” that are not directly testable in many ways. Design, in this way, is just the same. However, science does not concern itself really with making inferences that are not useful. Rather, theories are “explanatory frameworks,” and here is where design really struggles to compare. It is not capricious exclusion, but real difference in how design and evolution function as explanatory frameworks on a day-to-day basis in science.

    Hunter makes an excellent foil here, and demonstrates difference in how design and common descent function in science. He points out a pattern (spatial variation in divergence) as signature for design. He cannot fathom a material explanation, and counts this as evidence for design. Using the framework of common descent (whether it be true or false), I proposed a mechanism for that pattern (spatial variation in mutations). That mechanism is not only in the distant past, but also makes claims about how biological system function right now today. So we can go directly test this behavior to see for ourselves if the biological systems function this way. In fact they do. Spatial variation in mutation (+ recombination) entirely explains the pattern that confused Hunter. So now I’ve fleshed out part of the story, experimentally, not just with inference, of “how” common descent produced that pattern.

    This does not mean that common descent is “T”rue of course, but the design inference in this story did nothing more than distract from our path to finding a mechanistic answer. Here is the thing: science only cares about the mechanistic “how” and nothing else. Philosophy is about the big questions, which is why it is captured by design. Science only cares about the small questions, which is why it is perfectly happy with evolution. This is why scientists, in the current formulation, find the design inference to be non-scientific. In current practice, it just cuts so counter to the way science works.

    Scientists (like Dawkins and myself) of course care about both science and philosophy, but I am allowed to operate in science without getting kicked out because I can tell the difference between one and the other. I can make whatever philosophical pronouncements I want, as long as I qualify that I recognize that I am speaking without science’s authority when I make these statements. This is, incidentally, why a large number of scientists really dislike Dawkins. They frequently find him to be pretentious and unscientific in his grandiose philosophical claims from science’s authority.

    This is why I say repeatedly that the design inference is outside of science, even though it might be true, and I might agree with some of the arguments. Nonetheless, it currently does not function like an explanatory framework in science. Frankly, I just do not understand why the ID movement cares so much. Why not make a solid philosophical case that the inference is reasonable, based on the solid common ground of (for example) fine-tuning, and let go of the label “science” for the argument? Why is this faulty human effort of “science” so important to you? It is just a faulty manmade thing after all. This fixation on “science” feels very idolatrous to me (please no one jump on me for that honest disclosure).

    Of course, if I was making a hard claim that common descent was scientifically “T”rue, you might be justified in arguing me about the design inference. But I do not make that hard claim. I just say that common descent is an appropriate explanatory framework within science, and it has a an astonishing good track record of generating hypothesis that end up being confirmed. Science, however, is not really concerned with “T”ruth at all. It deals in provisional “t”ruth. That’s it.

    What is the Truth? Well, I already gave you my answer in the very beginning. I go to Scripture for that. Not science.

    ===

    I find this exchange to be remarkable because, essentially, all of the key assumption and historical commitments of the ID movement have arisen amongst us. It is an episode that exposes all the strengths, contradictions, and weaknesses of the ID movement as a whole. This is exactly the same conversation that Gingerich was having with Johnson back in 1992. There is nothing new under the sun. Except the Dover Trial and the Kansas Board of Education, that is.

    Is there a way for design to find its way in science? Maybe, in the distant future, after ID shakes a bad reputation and makes some real intellectual progress. I’m just not sure why this is important though. The bigger issues are the assumption of atheism in our culture, and you do not need science to counter that. Frankly, if you dropped fight for the label “science” and chose to embrace gatekeepers like me, I think you might rapidly earn a seat at the table, to make a much bigger impact on those cultural issues.

    Of course, this is not the world we live in. But we can dream, can’t we? My question to you: We’ve tried the ID way for about 25 years. Why not try another way forward now?

    This question, I admit, underlies much of my conversation with you. I imagine this is part of the difficulty you have in placing me. I agree with your conclusions. God exists and created us. Naturalism is false. However, I engage with science in an entirely different way. I imagine I am disorienting. Just remember this though. I could be a really valuable ally. And you need all the friends you can find.

  55. 55

    It is quite remarkable to me how most just assume that I believe science over the Bible.

    Frankly Professor, your belief in the Bible is your own business as far as I am concerned. I would suspect for a number of people here, it’s probably not your faith that we have issues with, it’s your science.

  56. 56
    zeroseven says:

    Bill Cole @52, does ID have a mechanism, and if not, does that mean it is not a testable hypothesis?

  57. 57
    StephenB says:

    SB: “God either guided the process or he didn’t. Man was either the intended result of the process or he wasn’t. Do you not grasp the problem here? Both cannot be true at the same time.”

    VJ

    Professor Swamidass has affirmed his belief that God designed us all.

    I am sorry, VJ, but that comment does not even come close to addressing the issue. Professor Swamidass is trying to have it both ways, implying that a purposeful, mindful God could use a purposeless, mindless process to create a finished product that matches His apriori intent. Apparently, even you are giving credence to this notion.

    Newman seems to be arguing here that from a Divine perspective, man could still be designed, even if he were the outcome of a series of cosmic accidents, so long as God foresaw (and intended) that those accidents would lead to us.

    There is much bad logic here. First, of all, what God foresaw is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what God caused to happen, which is a totally different matter. Perspective, either God’s or ours, has nothing to do with the fact that God, by means of some process, arranged for homo-sapiens to arrive exactly in the form that He wanted.

    Further, it isn’t logically possible that God could design a process that is guaranteed to produce one and only one outcome (Theism), if that same process is also capable of providing many possible outcomes. (Darwinism). It is either open ended or it is not. It is either designed to close off unwanted outcomes or it is not. It can’t be both. Thus, it follows that God cannot use an open-ended Darwinian process to produce a specified result. Again, God’s omniscience is irrelevant. He doesn’t need His omniscience to tell Him about the outcome that His omnipotence has already provided for.

    The order of events makes all the above points clear. In the case of Teleological Theism, the design precedes and shapes the evolutionary process. In the case of Darwinian Evolution–the evolutionary process precedes and shapes the design (appearance of). Notice that there can be no reconciliation. To affirm one perspective is to negate the other. Either God’s real design precedes and shapes the evolutionary process (Teleological Theism) or, the evolutionary process precedes and shapes the appearance of design (Neo-Darwinism). It must be one or the other. It cannot be both.

    Professor Swamidass has chosen to address none of these issues. Perhaps you can carry the burden for him and provide a rational defense for his position (and, I guess, yours).

  58. 58
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed:

    Frankly Professor, your belief in the Bible is your own business as far as I am concerned. I would suspect for a number of people here, it’s probably not your faith that we have issues with, it’s your science.

    But it appears that the science is unassailable!

    Advice to a Theistic Evolutionist

  59. 59
  60. 60
    StephenB says:

    Professor Swamidass @54, you are nothing if not entertaining. Like your distant mentor, you support “methodological naturalism,” an arbitrary rule for science by which researchers choose not to consider intelligent causes – even as a remote possibility. Then — surprise, surprise — after ruling out ID as a scientific enterprise, you declare that ID does not rise to the level of science. I love it!

  61. 61
    Andre says:

    I am 100% certain this whole issue is about the supposed rejection of “evolution” and ID’s supposed “rejection” of it. That is what I read. I think it needs to be made clear again…. ID does not reject evolution it only opposes the idea that it is a random, unguided and unintended process.

    Guided vs. Unguided that is the talking point. Not evolution.

  62. 62

    Look. I get it. We disagree.

    People do not change their minds quickly. I do not expect to change your mind. We will continue to disagree.

    @60 I appreciate your sentiment, that ID is not rejection of “evolution.” But just look here at this conversation. “Evolution” appears to be the main problem that some have with me. Somehow, Behe gets a pass. That gives me some hope.

    @55 And about your “issues with my science.” I’m not sure what to make of that. What is your standing to dispute with me on this? I answer to my peers in science, and I don’t make the rules. I only reporting what I have seen to you about the rules that others before me have laid out. My peers in science have no problem with my science, and that is all the validation I need.

    The real situation is exactly the opposite. For the most part, scientists have a real problem with your science.

    So now we are in an awkward place. You do not approve of my science. No one in science really seems to care what you think about science. For the most part (I’m sure you will find some exceptions), they all agree with me. I wonder now, how you plan to win this argument. Not just me, but with all my peers, including those the vast majority that loath ID and will never talk to you.

    Continue in your personal version of science. Go for it. As for me, I’m fine with mainstream science. It is working just fine for me.

    Here is my invitation though. Do we not have common ground? What common ground do you think you see that you could meet me on? Sure, we would continue to have substantial disagreements. We would continue to pursue different things. Still, what common ground do you see with me?

  63. 63

    Zero at 56,

    ID has a mechanism, semiosis, the physical capacity to specify an object by establishing a medium. In a universe where no object specifies any other object, nature clearly and unambiguously demonstrates how that capacity manifests itself in a material system, and we as methodical observers have an entirely coherent understanding of it. Genetic translation demonstrates a universal correlate of intelligence, one which can be exclusively identified among all other physical systems. Not only is it completely testable, the core material observations aren’t even controversial.

    Prof. Swamidass at 61,

    Your disagreement is with the physics of translation (i.e. von Neumann, Crick, Zamecnik, Nirenberg, Pattee, etc).

  64. 64

    #61,

    So now we are in an awkward place. You do not approve of my science. No one in science really seems to care what you think about science. For the most part (I’m sure you will find some exceptions), they all agree with me. I wonder now, how you plan to win this argument. Not just me, but with all my peers, including those the vast majority that loath ID and will never talk to you.

    I’m not interested in your perceived authority, or the arrogance you display in selling it. The only thing that matters in science is the physical evidence.

  65. 65
    Andre says:

    Prof Swamidass

    Read the responses carefully, its is not a rejection of Evolution that is the issue, I will vouch for everyone of my peers here and I am certain they will back me when I say;

    This is not an issue about evolution, its an issue about guided vs. non-guided, intended vs. unintended, random vs. specified.

    Nothing else.

  66. 66
    Andre says:

    Prof Swamidass

    So in essence what do we have?

    Do we side with Wallace on this debate or do we side with Darwin? I think the evidence does speak for itself and Wallace is right, in conclusion I no longer have a beef with the fact that there is or was a Master engineer. I can live with that.

    What you have to get your mind around is why are those that side with Darwin so hell-bent on denying there is a Master engineer? why do they cling to his version even though it has been shown that his theory is wholly inadequate to explain anything, and it is so by the virtue that its been trying to explain everything.

    The only way those that oppose a master engineer can keep denying said Master engineer is if they keep insisting that design and purpose is an illusion. They need guys like you more than we do to keep the fable going.

  67. 67
    mike1962 says:

    gpuccio comes the closest. (I love that guy, and I want to meet up with him some day.) But y’all need to look at the information in the genome as music. Then the truth will come to you at last. Hehe.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMBycZq66ks

    P.S. consciousness is primary

  68. 68
    Eric Anderson says:

    vjtorley @51:

    You ask an excellent question of Professor Swamidass at the end of your comment.

    —–

    As to the larger substance, however, no offense to Newman, but his is, while initially tempting, not a satisfactory intellectual approach on closer inspection:

    As to the Divine Design, is it not an instance of incomprehensibly and infinitely marvellous Wisdom and Design to have given certain laws to matter millions of ages ago, which have surely and precisely worked out, in the long course of those ages, those effects which He from the first proposed. Mr Darwin’s theory need not then to be atheistical, be it true or not; it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of Divine Prescience and Skill. Perhaps your friend has got a surer clue to guide him than I have, who have never studied the question, and I do not [see] that ‘the accidental evolution of organic beings’ is inconsistent with divine design — It is accidental to us, not to God.

    This is how someone like Ken Miller, for example, maintains his belief in God’s role, while at the same time fighting ID tooth and nail and keeping his AAAS membership card in good standing. Basically, the approach says that we’ll allow a designer to be involved, as long as it was so long ago and so indirectly as to be irrelevant.

    This approach is, unfortunately, both illogical and contrary to the evidence. The Newman approach is singularly unhelpful in determining whether there was, in fact, design involved in the history of life.

    I recognize, of course, that for those who believe (religiously and philosophically) in some kind of Creator, but who at the same time (mistakenly or conveniently) believe that purely natural and material processes are sufficient — for those unfortunate souls, this whole issue raises a great deal of cognitive dissonance.

    Dissonance that might lead our confused hero to take a position that the creator did the creating, but just did it either through:

    (a) a purely natural process that later accidentally and conveniently stumbled upon the creator’s intent (one imagines the Grand Creator wiping the beads of sweat from his brow with a “Whew! Glad that turned out the way I was hoping!”); or

    (b) active tinkering behind-the-scenes in some unknown, unspecified way that allows the creator to control the outcome, while appearing to us to be a purely natural and material random process.

    Neither of these is satisfactory.

    Fortunately, all one has to do to escape from this gnawing cognitive dissonance is to recognize the obvious facts before our noses. Namely, that the materialist creation myth is just that: a myth. One that deserves no more respect than the fairy tales and just-so stories of yore.

  69. 69
    Origenes says:

    Swamidass: We need some context here though. ID argues that “design” in nature (an artifact of God’s creative work) is identifiable entirely within the confines of science. (…)
    Many theistic evolutionists (including myself)—acutely aware science’s limits and community, and reticent to change science’s rules—were very skeptical that science could detect God’s design in nature.

    ID makes no claims about the designer nor God. ID does not identify the designer:

    “The theory of intelligent design does not claim to detect a supernatural intelligence possessing unlimited powers. Though the designing agent responsible for life may well have been an omnipotent deity, the theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine that. Because the inference to design depends upon our uniform experience of cause and effect in this world, the theory cannot determine whether or not the designing intelligence putatively responsible for life has powers beyond those on display in our experience. Nor can the theory of intelligent design determine whether the intelligent agent responsible for information life acted from the natural or the “supernatural” realm. Instead, the theory of intelligent design merely claims to detect the action of some intelligent cause (with power, at least, equivalent to those we know from experience) and affirms this because we know from experience that only conscious, intelligent agents produce large amounts of specified information. The theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine the identity or any other attributes of that intelligence, even if philosophical deliberation or additional evidence from other disciplines may provide reasons to consider, for example, a specifically theistic design hypothesis.”
    (Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell, pp. 428-429.)

    Swamidass: This is why ID really struggles in science. It is true, evolution and common descent are “inferences” that are not directly testable in many ways. Design, in this way, is just the same. However, science does not concern itself really with making inferences that are not useful.

    How is it not useful to know that a steam engine is designed?

    Swamidass: Rather, theories are “explanatory frameworks,” and here is where design really struggles to compare.

    How is design not an “explanatory framework” wrt Stonehenge?

    Swamidass: Here is the thing: science only cares about the mechanistic “how” and nothing else.

    Well, sometimes the mechanism is design. Sometimes the “how” is “by design” — like with the IPhone and this post.

    Swamidass: Philosophy is about the big questions, which is why it is captured by design.

    Is an inference to design wrt an archeological find (or a battleship) “philosophy”?

    Swamidass: This is why scientists, in the current formulation, find the design inference to be non-scientific. (…) This is why I say repeatedly that the design inference is outside of science, even though it might be true, and I might agree with some of the arguments. Nonetheless, it currently does not function like an explanatory framework in science.

    Tell that to the scientists involved in archeology, forensics, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

    Swamidass: Is there a way for design to find its way in science? Maybe, in the distant future, after ID shakes a bad reputation and makes some real intellectual progress. I’m just not sure why this is important though.

    Design has already found its way in science. But you are right of course, clearly it is inconsequential if we are able to prove scientifically that life is designed.

  70. 70
    Andre says:

    Origenes

    Design has already found its way in science. But you are right of course, clearly it is inconsequential if we are able to prove scientifically that life is designed.

    And in biology we are already reverse engineering those designs…..

    http://webecoist.momtastic.com.....nventions/

    And when you can reverse engineer something you can no longer deny its designed……

  71. 71
    StephenB says:

    Andre writes,

    Read the responses carefully, its is not a rejection of Evolution that is the issue, I will vouch for everyone of my peers here and I am certain they will back me when I say;

    This is not an issue about evolution, its an issue about guided vs. non-guided, intended vs. unintended, random vs. specified.

    Right you are. I, and others (yourself included) have dramatized this point many times, and in many ways.

  72. 72
    Andre says:

    StephenB

    And yet our interlocutors keep insisting, that we reject evolution…. No matter how many times you correct them they never correct themselves…..

  73. 73
    Polanyi says:

    @VT

    Not sure why Dr Hunter is backing down from the red ape enigma. Did you read these rebuttal papers that you cited?

    “The overall conclusion from our analyses is that the prevailing view of chimpanzees as the nearest living relatives of humans is supported and appears robust when all existing evidence is analysed together. However, it cannot be denied that there are numerous similarities between Homo and Pongo in morphological, life history, physiological, behavioural and cultural traits (Schwartz, 1984a,b; van Schaik et al., 2003; Grehan, 2006; O’Higgins & Elton, 2007; Thorpe et al., 2007; Kelley & Schwartz, 2010). If the currently accepted hypothesis of hominid evolution is correct, these similarities must either be symplesiomorphies (shared primitive characters), convergences, or erroneous observations.”

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....354.x/full

  74. 74
    Polanyi says:

    @Prof. S. Joshua Swamidass

    You say you don’t trust science. Would this not undermine your scientific argument for common descent? (which seems to rely on your trust in science?)

    Or do you distrust science when we are talking about evidence for design from the natural world?

  75. 75
    Origenes says:

    At the end of the day Swamidass has little to offer besides a rehash of drawn-out misunderstandings about ID.

    Before we can have a meaningful discussion with Swamidass, he must, at the very least, understand that:

    (1) ID does not claim that the designer is God.
    (2) ID does not reject (guided) evolution.
    (3) The design inference is useful and well-established in science, such as is the case with archaeology, forensics and SETI.
    – – – –
    Regarding (1) I quoted Stephen Meyer in #69. I would like to add two more quotes:

    Luskin:

    Yes, he is correct that ID does not identify the designer. But this refusal is principled, not some kind of rhetorical or legal “strategy” or politically motivated “policy.” It stems from a desire to take a scientific approach and respect the limits of scientific inquiry, rather than inject religious discussions about theological questions into science.

    And it’s not the case that these theological questions can be addressed by science but ID avoids them out of a desire to stay away from theological issues. Rather, ID does not identify the designer because given our present knowledge and technology, there is no known scientific method of doing so. Because ID sticks to scientifically tractable questions, it stays silent on such matters. This is a crucial point to appreciate if you want to understand why ID doesn’t identify the designer: it’s not because ID takes a scientific approach and science arbitrarily avoids such questions; it’s because ID takes a scientific approach and science has no means of addressing such questions.

    Moreover in his book ‘Being as Communion’ Dembski writes that Nagel’s natural conception of teleology is completely consistent with ID :

    Nagel proposes to understand teleology in terms of natural teleological laws. These laws would be radically different from the laws of physics and chemistry that currently are paradigmatic of the laws of nature. And yet, as we shall see, such teleological laws fit quite naturally within an information-theoretic framework . . . his proposal, given in Mind and Cosmos . . . connects point for point with the account of information given in this book. Indeed, Nagel’s teleological laws are none other than the directed searches (or alternative searches) that are the basis of Conservation of Information . . . of this book.

  76. 76
    Eric Anderson says:

    As to how a “mechanism” relates to design, we need to be careful with both our logic and our terminology. A couple of points from prior discussions, with the relevant parts quoted below:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-488781

    But we need to be clear that ID is not a mechanistic theory.

    One of the favorite ploys of anti-ID rhetoric is to demand to know exactly how something in biology was designed. This is partly because in the materialist mindset everything boils down to a mechanistic process of particles bumping into each other.

    In contrast, the design process typically involves planning, considering, analyzing, drafting, reviewing, refining, making choices, weighing competing engineering parameters, and so on. It is primarily a non-mechanistic process. Certainly there is an eventual instantiation of the design into matter, but it doesn’t make any difference to the fact of design — the essence of drawing a design inference — if, say, a car was built purely by robots on an assembly line in a massive factory in Japan or if it was carefully crafted by hand in my neighbor’s garage next door. The process of instantiating a design into matter — the actual mechanical mechanisms used — is a separate question from whether something was designed.

    So we need to be careful not to get caught in the rhetorical trap of thinking that ID is required to propose a detailed step-by-step mechanistic answer as to precisely how a particular artifact was designed. As interesting as such a question may be, it is not an essential part of drawing a design inference.

    ID is not primarily a mechanistic theory.

    and

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-505272

    1. The question of how something was designed is logically separate from, and subsequent to, the question of whether it was designed. ID is not an attempt to answer all questions. It is a limited inquiry into whether something was designed. Questions about who, why, how, when are all interesting second-order questions that can be asked only after an inference to design is drawn. You may want, deeply in your heart of hearts, for ID to answer all of those questions. But that is a failure of your expectations, not ID itself.

    2. Design does not have to answer a “how” in the same way that purely natural explanations need to. That is because we are dealing with two different domains. Design is not a mechanistic theory. It is a theory about choice, about intentionality, about intelligence. You don’t need to know how the ancients built the pyramids or stonehenge, or the precise design and manufacturing process for how a solid state flash drive was built, to know that such things were designed.

    In stark contrast, chance and natural-law-driven processes are all about the mechanism. They are purely mechanistic theories that live or die by identifying a natural physical mechanism.

    Many materialists (because, again, they can’t see past their materialism), want to demand that ID provide some kind of detailed mechanistic explanation for design. That demand is based on a misunderstanding, because ID is not a mechanistic theory. That is not a failure of ID. It is a failure by the materialist to understand the different domains we are dealing with.

  77. 77
    Dionisio says:

    StephenB @71
    Andre @72

    Aren’t antibiotic-resistant bacteria a product of some kind of evolution?

    Isn’t the amazing development from zygote to adulthood a kind of evolution?

    The word ‘evolution’ could be understood as one of different processes. Hence it must be qualified to specify which kind it refers to in a given case.

    The company Xamarin, associated with MSFT, hosts an interesting conference under the suggestive name ‘Evolve’.
    In their case is it guided? Completely under control?
    I hope so.

    🙂

  78. 78
    jerry says:

    Aren’t antibiotic-resistant bacteria a product of some kind of evolution?

    Yes, they are examples of micro evolution or basic genetics. ID has no quarrel with this. Micro evolution was what Darwin observed on his trip but obviously not microbes.

    Isn’t the amazing development from zygote to adulthood a kind of evolution?

    Not how it used in biology or here. This example of development represent changes over time within an individual organism which is very interesting. Evolution is used to refer to changes in different organisms over time.

  79. 79

    Reading a few of the comments, I’m curious what you are hoping to accomplish.

    You must know that I myself do not set the rules in science. If you really want the situation to change, somehow, the scientists at the major scientific bodies need to be convinced, the AAAS, the NAS, and more. No one has successfully made the case to them to change the rules in your favor.

    All I am doing here is explaining why I think they have not decided in your favor. This is not a debate, in my mind, because I have no power to grant you want you desire. Certainly, you disagree, but arguing with me does not appear to accomplish anything. Even if you were to magically bring me over to your side, I could not change the rules for you even if I wanted. Arguing your cases would get me kicked out of science.

    We have to accept the world the way it “is” before we can work to make something different.

    About common descent, evolution, and design, right now using the rules of mainstream science the case in among that vast majority of scientists, these debates are over, and I can only explain to you why I think this has happened. Certainly, ID as a whole is not officially opposed to evolution and common descent, but as we have seen this animates a large number in the ID movement.

    I however do not fully trust science, so I think it is dignified to take a different point of view (outside of science) on these things for various reasons. So yes, this does undercut the case for common descent or evolution as “Truth”. I, however, have never made that claim. Look at my article. As much as I make case for common descent in science, I equally argue against it theology. It is dignified to disagree with science with good reason.

    Ultimately, I understand that you want the scientific world to work a different way than it currently does, so that your heros and ideas will be embraced in science instead of rejected. This seems very important to you. How do you imagine that will happen? Arguing with me is not going to get you there. Neither is publishing yet another populist book. What exactly is your end game? What is your plan? What is your strategy?

    More importantly to me, what do you think your common ground with people like me could be? I hear all your arguments. I’ve offered an olive branch, that has been accepted by some but rejected by others. That was my bid, and it was only tenuously accepted. So why don’t you make a bid. What do you think our common ground could be?

    I want to find a way to peace with you.

  80. 80
    bill cole says:

    Dr Swamidass

    Continue in your personal version of science. Go for it. As for me, I’m fine with mainstream science. It is working just fine for me.

    Here is my invitation though. Do we not have common ground? What common ground do you think you see that you could meet me on? Sure, we would continue to have substantial disagreements. We would continue to pursue different things. Still, what common ground do you see with me?

    I really appreciate your long post and think at this point there is a lot of common ground at least with my thinking. A year and a half ago I was in the same place you are regarding evolution except having at lot less knowledge than you do. When I discovered the sequential space problem I was amazed that the theory was still taught without sharing the problems. I was attracted to ID but soon became aware of its limitations i.e. no direct explanatory mechanism. We agree that inference is not a strong standard in science however it is what we have for historical sciences. I think part of the resistance to ID is based on political groups like the NCSE that successfully painted it as religiously motivated. The problem I have is that the NCSE is using evolution to forward their anti christian or atheistic agenda. A church leader recently said to me that a parishioners son was told by his teacher you need to choose between Darwin and God. In the public schools many children are getting one side of the story.

    The problem we have is if you strip out the inferences the theory of evolution basically goes away. I honestly do not know the right answer but where we disagree is that I think common decent has way to much contrary evidence to be the winning inference at this point. Should design be taught as a competing inference? I personally have not reached a conclusion but as a minimum I think the words common decent needs to be modified to a clear description of the evidence. Common biochemical mechanisms would be more accurate. On a personal note I have really enjoyed our exchange.:-)

  81. 81
    jerry says:

    So why don’t you make a bid. What do you think our common ground could be?

    I would acknowledge when you have been wrong about ID and what ID has been right about. That would be a good start.

    You could in return tell us what we have been wrong on.

    Be simple and specific in your answers. That way the discussion will not range all over the place. And I would prefer to keep all discussions to science and leave religion or theology out of it.

    Also I would eliminate any discussion of how we should interact with the science world which you obviously think we have problems. That is obviously important but first let’s concentrate on getting the science right.

  82. 82
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Stephen B and Eric Anderson,

    I’d like to respond to your comments in relation to Newman’s proposal that God could use a process that appears accidental to us, in order to bring about a foreordained result. Stephen B writes:

    First, of all, what God foresaw is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what God caused to happen, which is a totally different matter. Perspective, either God’s or ours, has nothing to do with the fact that God, by means of some process, arranged for homo-sapiens to arrive exactly in the form that He wanted.

    Further, it isn’t logically possible that God could design a process that is guaranteed to produce one and only one outcome (Theism), if that same process is also capable of providing many possible outcomes. (Darwinism). It is either open ended or it is not. It is either designed to close off unwanted outcomes or it is not. It can’t be both. Thus, it follows that God cannot use an open-ended Darwinian process to produce a specified result. Again, God’s omniscience is irrelevant. He doesn’t need His omniscience to tell Him about the outcome that His omnipotence has already provided for.

    My suggestion was that if God foresaw and intended that if a process (which appears accidental to us) would bring about Homo sapiens, then that would suffice for Homo sapiens having been designed. Let me add that I’m not a fan of Newman’s proposal, myself. I just think it’s possible, that’s all.

    I agree that a process cannot be both guaranteed to produce one and only one outcome and capable of providing many possible outcomes. But I imagine that Newman would respond that while evolution in general, as a mechanism, is capable of providing many possible outcomes (including a world where the Cambrian explosion never even happened and consequently, humans never arose), nevertheless, under these particular initial conditions (which were arranged by God), evolution is guaranteed to produce one and only one outcome, culminating in Homo sapiens. That seems consistent to me.

    Eric Anderson, you write that Newman’s proposal would entail one of two alternatives, neither of which is satisfactory, in your opinion:

    (a) a purely natural process that later accidentally and conveniently stumbled upon the creator’s intent (one imagines the Grand Creator wiping the beads of sweat from his brow with a “Whew! Glad that turned out the way I was hoping!”); or

    (b) active tinkering behind-the-scenes in some unknown, unspecified way that allows the creator to control the outcome, while appearing to us to be a purely natural and material random process.

    What’s wrong with (b)? For instance, some writers have proposed that God could have used quantum mechanics to guarantee the outcome of evolution, making His work appear random, even though it was in fact intentional.

    Or what’s wrong with (c): a purely natural process that realized the creator’s intent because the initial conditions were incredibly fine-tuned by God?

    Personally, I think God continually intervened in the course of human evolution. However, I think other alternatives may be possible.

    Thoughts?

  83. 83
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Polanyi,

    Thank you for that quote from the 2010 paper by Lehtonen et al. which rebutted claims by Grehan and Schwartz (2009) that the orangutan is the ape which is morphologically closest to us. Lehtonen et al. write:

    “The overall conclusion from our analyses is that the prevailing view of chimpanzees as the nearest living relatives of humans is supported and appears robust when all existing evidence is analysed together. However, it cannot be denied that there are numerous similarities between Homo and Pongo in morphological, life history, physiological, behavioural and cultural traits (Schwartz, 1984a,b; van Schaik et al., 2003; Grehan, 2006; O’Higgins & Elton, 2007; Thorpe et al., 2007; Kelley & Schwartz, 2010). If the currently accepted hypothesis of hominid evolution is correct, these similarities must either be symplesiomorphies (shared primitive characters), convergences, or erroneous observations.

    Actually, I like the first option best. Commenting on the first option, the authors write:

    If the similarities are symplesiomorphies, this would greatly affect the way we look at ourselves: many human features should be considered ‘primitive’, whereas the corresponding traits in gorillas and chimpanzees should be considered more ‘derived’. It has already been suggested that lack of knuckle-walking is a primitive trait shared by Homo and Pongo, and that knuckle-walking itself is a derived trait that evolved independently in Gorilla and Pan (O’Higgins & Elton, 2007; Thorpe et al., 2007).

    That sound quite plausible to me.

  84. 84
    jerry says:

    What’s wrong with B?

    Or what’s wrong with C?:

    Either is possible. Each has some different implications. Why quantum mechanics is the intermediary process seems to be an arbitrary suggestion. Option A seems ridiculous but I believe Kenneth Miller is there.

    There are a bunch of examples on youtube showing dominos cascading all over the place and in the end it somehow knocks over something. It is certainly possible that this could be the way life arrived as the initial conditions setup a process that cascaded till life was made. And then all the dominos disappeared.

    But such a process does not explain changes in life since them. We do not see any domino like processes cascading at any place in life’s history.

    Personally, I think God continually intervened in the course of human evolution. However, I think other alternatives may be possible.:

    The evidence points to an ongoing intervention but is intolerable to many of the TE’s because it seems to imply God could not get it right and had to adjust. An truly omnipotent God wouldn’t need to readjust.

    I happen to like a suggestion that Eric Metaxas made and that this is a way of God showing He is a caring God who intervenes not because it is necessary but to to help guide us (why we pray). But that is a theological point of view and has no rational or logical background and may not hold up under intense analysis.

    But we should keep away from this in our discussion with Prof. Swamidass and keep our discussions to science. It may end up there but we should not start there.

  85. 85

    @81

    At this juncture, a request for additional concessions from me is not received well. Most of all, because I have no authority to grant you more than I have already given.

    Over the last several days, I must have written about 5,000 or more words laying out my position, and that of the scientists I know. There hours of me doing the same on YouTube in collaboration with other scientists and philosophers.

    Out of all this information, with what do you agree?

    I have already articulated several places where I agree with you. Ultimately, I agree with your larger point, though I disagree with the science of most of the individual arguments you make. Still, I think some of your arguments might be correct. Moreover, I have even argued that disagreeing with mainstream science is a dignified response. I have even sympathized with your exclusion from mainstream science, and its toll on your community. There is nothing more I have authority to give you.

    I have heard all the disagreements between us. Nothing is new here. It is a boring argument. I’m much more curious: what is your agreement with me? What is our basis for moving forward?

  86. 86
    jerry says:

    At this juncture, a request for additional concessions from me is not received well.

    I didn’t see anyone ask for and I certainly did not ask for any concessions. I just asked what you think you got wrong about ID and what ID got right. If nothing all you have to do is say nothing.

    You were asking for common ground and my request was a simple way of getting at that.

  87. 87

    @80

    Thank you for the kind and non-argumentative reply.

    In response, I want to take your proposal seriously, and give you an opportunity to explain it. Please do not take this as argumentative. I want to be sure that I understand your proposal.

    You say, that instead of CD, you say, “common biochemical mechanisms would be more accurate.”

    Okay, let’s try and take that seriously. Now comes a really important, and focused question. This question is on a specific piece of evidence, but the same evidence could be extended to a very large class of analogous cases. The question is rooted in my dialogue with Hunter.

    http://swami.wustl.edu/evidenc.....on#spatial

    Divergence (nucleotide differences) varies across the genome. These differences vary by chromosome, position within chromosomes, and chromosome banding patterns. This is a puzzling feature, that was reported in the original 2005 chimp genome paper.

    It turns out, that the directly measured distribution of de novo mutation rate and recombination rates across the human genome entirely explains the variance in divergence. This fits the hypothesis of a human/chimp common ancestor, and mechanistically explains the variation in divergence as a consequence of experimentally measureable differences of mutation and recombination rates.

    So here is my question to you. How does “common biochemical mechanisms” explain this strange correlation in the data? How does your theory explain why human-chimp divergence correlates perfectly with mutation and recombination rates?

    If we do not have an answer to this, I would submit that “common biochemical mechanisms” is not a suitable replacement for “common descent” in biology.

    In contrast, “descent with designed modification,” as you have also previously proposed, might be a conceptual alternative, though it will not be widely accepted in science.

  88. 88
    Andere Stimme says:

    Dr. Swamidass,

    I’m enjoying reading this exchange, but there are a few things you’ve said that I don’t understand.

    No ID proponent wants or needs the basic ground rules of the truth-seeking enterprise of science to change. What we want to change is the double standard that is applied to ID, and has become the “rule” among many would-be defenders of science. That’s the “rule change” that needs to happen, and that’s what Dembski and Johnson were talking about.

    The double standard is this: There is no objection in science to inferring design when it comes to arrowheads, hieroglyphics, arson, alien transmissions, winning streaks at blackjack, etc. etc. etc. But make the same inference in biology or cosmology, however justified, and suddenly you’re accused of peddling pseudoscience. That’s how mainstream science deals with ID.

    So, do you agree that inferring intelligent causation in the cases I’ve mentioned (arrowheads, arson, etc.) is perfectly good science? Do you agree that a double standard is being applied to ID, and do you think that’s acceptable? And do you agree that it’s “useful” when studying something to know that it was purposefully designed?

    I hope I don’t sound challenging or belligerent. I just want to have a better idea what you’re saying.

  89. 89

    Prof Swamidass,

    you want the scientific world to work a different way than it currently does, so that your heros and ideas will be embraced in science instead of rejected.

    These kinds of comments are intended to portray a certain strain of irrationality on the part of your opponents, but your words betray the distortion of science itself. Rational people want scientific positions to be supported by physical evidence. It’s a fairly simple principle, but it requires the members of the scientific community to actually maintain their discipline, which they have failed to do. The general public doesn’t want human vice in control of the science they pay for. If physical evidence does not support a particular position, then we expect science to remain reasonable and independent of it.

    Also, this whole tone-deaf Mr. Rogers thing you’ve got going is probably unhelpful to your public outreach. You promote the authority of the ideological mainstream, and like them, you have no resolution to core issues like IC and the origin of information. Average ID folks see this a mile away. If you don’t care to engage the hegemony in science, that’s fine, but why do you throw stones at those who do?

  90. 90
    Mung says:

    …but why do you throw stones at those who do?

    Let him without science throw the first stone.

  91. 91
    Mung says:

    Does common ancestry really explain anything if you always have to appeal to common ancestry plus something else to explain the data?

  92. 92
    Mung says:

    Or what’s wrong with (c): a purely natural process that realized the creator’s intent because the initial conditions were incredibly fine-tuned by God?

    What is wrong with (c) is that there is no such thing as a purely natural process.

  93. 93
    Mung says:

    Certainly, ID as a whole is not officially opposed to evolution and common descent, but as we have seen this animates a large number in the ID movement.

    Sadly. And it detracts from the real issues and continually provides the opponents of ID with support for their claims that ID is Creationism.

  94. 94
    StephenB says:

    Hi VJ, thanks for commenting

    You write:

    My suggestion was that if God foresaw and intended that if a process (which appears accidental to us) would bring about Homo sapiens, then that would suffice for Homo sapiens having been designed. Let me add that I’m not a fan of Newman’s proposal, myself. I just think it’s possible, that’s all.

    On logical necessity: We know that it is logically impossible for evolution to be both specified (Theism) and open ended (Darwinian). And, as I pointed out earlier, either the design precedes and shapes the evolutionary process, or else the evolutionary process precedes and shapes the design (appearance of). It cannot be both. Those two points (and others) rule out Theistic Evolution as a rational formulation.

    On appearances: Theistic Evolutionists, have committed themselves to the “science” of evolution, as it is defined by Neo-Darwinists, according to which evolution is (not appears to be) unguided and variations are (not appear to be) random. Yet when we call them on their anti-Christian commitment to unguided evolution, they often reverse their field, contradict (temporarily and quietly) their pledge to the establishment, and say that it may only “appear unguided to us.” Still, that doesn’t stop them from switching back again to denounce ID on the basis of “what science says” about what is (not what seems to be). It really is appalling.

    But I imagine that Newman would respond that while evolution in general, as a mechanism, is capable of providing many possible outcomes (including a world where the Cambrian explosion never even happened and consequently, humans never arose), nevertheless, under these particular initial conditions (which were arranged by God), evolution is guaranteed to produce one and only one outcome, culminating in Homo sapiens. That seems consistent to me.

    I am afraid that I cannot agree. We are not discussing evolution as a general mechanism, but rather as a special mechanism that has been designed to achieve a particular result. If the initial conditions are designed such that the emerging evolution will produce homo-sapiens (and nothing else), then it follows that, evolution, so designed (or arranged for by previous design), is not capable of producing many outcomes.

    Meanwhile, I find that professor Swamidass is all over the map on just about every issue related to the above, including his incomprehensible assessment of science and the scientific method.

  95. 95
    Origenes says:

    Swamidass: All I am doing here is explaining why I think they have not decided in your favor.

    Your unsolicited “explanations” are indistinguishable from the usual misguided drivel about ID and have been soundly refuted.
    The remainder of your post #79, which rests on the out of the blue assumption that we think that you hold the power to change the rules of science, is nothing but a deceitful attempt to make us look foolish.

  96. 96
    StephenB says:

    Professor Swamidaas

    You must know that I myself do not set the rules in science. If you really want the situation to change, somehow, the scientists at the major scientific bodies need to be convinced, the AAAS, the NAS, and more. No one has successfully made the case to them to change the rules in your favor.

    It wasn’t ID that changed the rules. It was the scientific establishment that you identify with. Before the 1980’s, there was no such thing as “methodological naturalism”—no rule that the scientist must study nature “as if nature is all there is.”

    So, I have a few questions for you:

    Why do you think the academy changed the rules? Is that changed justified? Is methodological naturalism necessary for science? If so, then why do you accept Big Bang cosmology as scientific since that theory promotes the idea of a supernatural first cause of the universe?

    Do you know the difference between physical science and historical science? In what category would you place ID and the study of evolutionary biology?

    Inasmuch as you claim that ID is not science, you must know what science is. So, what is it?” What is the scientific method? Do you include methodological naturalism as part of that definition?

    Inasmuch as you are trying to explain why the scientific community “has not decided in ID’s favor,” you must surely know how ID answers that question. What is ID’s answer, and why do you not find it credible?

  97. 97
    bill cole says:

    Dr Swamidass
    Thank you again for your very interesting thoughts and discussion. My very conservative explanation is based on the theory of evolution getting ahead of itself and pulling back

    So here is my question to you. How does “common biochemical mechanisms” explain this strange correlation in the data? How does your theory explain why human-chimp divergence correlates perfectly with mutation and recombination rates?

    My suggestion is we don’t have enough data to say that humans arose from a common ancestor by isolated populations over millions of years.
    My suggestion is to simply point out that all life shares common biochemistry and leave open any grand interpretation of the data at this point. Leave all the possibilities on the table for debate and discussion.

    The nucleotide changes are most conservatively in the thousands and there are additional timing and splicing code changes.

    Just to put another thought on the table, the spliceosome looks like an intentional evolutionary mechanism as you see from the 2013 UT paper I posted that alternative splicing frequency positively correlates with vertebrate complexity. The uniform change of these codes looks like extremely sophisticated design to me and alternative splicing looks like an evolutionary mechanism 🙂

    I think our thoughts are remarkably close at this point, I want to spend more time on the paper you posted. So the candidates common biochemical mechanisms, decent with design modification and common decent are the competitors.

  98. 98

    So there a lot of well intentioned and important comments here. I appreciate the frustration that some of you express. I also see genuine effort among some of you to meet me halfway. Unfortunately, I cannot respond to everything. Those that are already convinced of nefarious intentions, of course, need no response at all.

    I will pick four things. (1) @86 what “ID got right”, (2) @12 @23 @72 @93 anti-evolutionism in ID, (3) @50 evidence for the Resurrection, and (4) one answer for Dionisio (I owe him one).

    Two brief comments to @88. Several ID proponents want to change the rules. Cornelius Hunter’s entire premise is that the rules are wrong and need to be change. Look at my long post above for direct quotes from others. This is a consistent theme in Meyer’s and Demski’s work. Also for a while there was an attempt among many ID proponents to create a new “theistic science,” this included Plantiga, Moreland, Dembski and others. I understand this is not a comfortable part of the ID movement, but this is well documented and clear. Moreover, the contention about methodological naturalism neglects that this is a rule put in place by Christians 350 years ago (http://biologos.org/blogs/ted-.....of-mercury).

    @88 I began to answer you question about the validity of the design inference in science @217 in http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-swamidass. However, everyone was offended by the attempt. Not sure I want to try again. This appears to be a sacred cow here, and I’m not trying again. In my opinion, ID in its current form is not being excluded unfairly. In a different form, however, it could be included.

    The rest will come in four separate comments.

  99. 99

    (1) @86 As I imagine you know, I disagree with much of the ID movement. However, I do see places where “ID got things right.” This is what I think ID gets right (or at least often gets right). There is a lot here, because I think there is a lot we have in common. Some of these positives, are pair with some negatives and caveats, but I will not deal with that here.

    We need a better voice in science, to explain why theism makes sense in our world.

    Philosophy and history are important disciplines that would benefit the conversation we are having about science. Scientists also would benefit from engagement with other disciplines in thinking about their work.

    There is evidence in our world that points to a Creator who designed us all.

    The origin of life is a sensible place to believe that God intervened in our history (see Walter Bradley’s work).

    The fine tuning problem is a sensible place of common ground with Physicists to suggest that this might have required the intervention of a creator (see Hugh Ross’ work here).

    It is pointless for theists to fight about the minutia of creation amongst each other, and this should be tabled in favor of more important things.

    The world we encounter in science makes a great deal of sense in light of a benevolent Designer.

    Scientism and Naturalism are problematic worldviews that need to be answered and worked against.

    The “Darwinism” of the New Atheists required a coherent and timely response.

    Continuing the creation war, as had been done in the US till 1987, was a futile effort and need to be reworked and reformed into something more productive.

    A worldview based on evolution alone is problematic and this needed to be explained to our world.

    Theistic engagement with science had dropped off badly in the last 100 years, and this need some sort of response to change the trajectory.

    The ID movement recognized the importance, early on, of gathering small groups of intellectuals together into small but powerful networks of influence.

    Early on, the ID movement (mainly Johnson) understood the power of language, and designed a new vocabulary in a way to define the public debate dramatically in their favor.

    The ID movement also understands and exploits the importance and power of populism in shaping the public’s view of the world.

  100. 100

    (2) @12 @23 @72 @93 anti-evolutionism in ID

    First, I think it is important to recap what has happened over the last month. I hope none of these facts are under question.

    1) On my private blog, I posted an article about “Evidence and Evolution” directed at religious leaders (not ID) that were curious about what I thought was the evidence for evolution. This article only obliquely referenced “design,” and did not even argue that evolution was “True,” in fact the astute reader would note that the 100 old Tree Parable argues that evolution is False in light of theology.

    2) On month later, Dr. Hunter (a Discovery Institute Fellow) reads my blog and decides that he does not believe that there is any evidence for common descent, that I am a horrible scientists, and this behooves him to write an article proving me wrong.

    3) The official blog of the Discovery Institute decides to post Dr. Hunter’s anti-evolution article. I remind you, this is a decision made by the leadership at the Institute.

    4) I post a response that says, I’m not really interested in arguing about the science, I’m just asking an honest theological question. More posts from the DI are published, all criticising me for not arguing with Dr. Hunter about the science supporting common descent.

    5) In the meantime, VJ writes a post defending my science, and this makes Dr. Hunter and the DI a bit miffed.

    6) Trying my best to be a good participant, I answer a few questions in a FAQ online, and dialogue with Dr. Hunter about some of the most bizarre attacks in his article. For my trouble, I find out that he agrees he made a bad argument, but refuses to concede the point in public. Remember, I am just arguing that “evidence exists for common descent,” not that it is True. The whole debate is totally absurd at this point, so I post my honest feelings about it, along with the strong evidence in support of my position. Mind you, none of this is anti-ID at any point.

    7) It further degrades from here as more DI posts are made on ENV, including another attack article from Hunter, and a follow up article from VJ. Of course, I imagine the DI and Hunter are not happy with how this played out, but they started it by directly attacking my competence as a scientists, and were not happy when I did not respond to their attacks. Then were even more unhappy when I did.

    8) Now I am posting to a blog where several people cannot figure out how I can believe in evolution and also design at the same time, and keep asking several questions about it.

    And now we wait.

    So, with this proximate history. I hope you will forgive me if I conclude that ID appears to be motivated by anti-evolutionism. I understand that you are not officially opposed to it, but why does the Discovery Institute think it is necessary to argue against my benign position? I was not even arguing against ID. They made a decision to give Dr. Hunter a platform for his attacks.

    If you really think ID should not be anti-evolution, I ask you for your help in this. You are the ID constituency. Do you think this behavior, by those who represent your, is consistent with what you have declared? ID is certainly consistent with evolution. However, to be clear, ID often attacks people like me for no other reason than saying the word “evolution” or claiming to be “theistic evolution.”

    Until you guys clean house here, and there are 1000 more vocal people like VJ, not many people will believe you when you say that “ID is not against evolution.”

    @72 “And yet our interlocutors keep insisting, that we reject evolution…. No matter how many times you correct them they never correct themselves…..”

    Given this proximate history, I hope you can understand why I find this a bit patronizing. If you really think ID is not concerned with rejecting evolution, how could you be satisfied with how many in ID have treated me in the last week?

  101. 101

    @50 evidence for the Resurrection

    Most people are profoundly ignorant of what they reject. The problem is that they make a rhetorical case without actually seeking truth. This is no different with the Resurrection.

    I tell them that the “way God makes himself known to the world is through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Of course there is evidence of God in nature, but without Jesus it is hard to appreciate it.”

    This is what I tell them (see this dialogue to see it in action https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_YKH3tAIqw):

    You believe in evolution, and it frustrates you how many people reject it. They expect you to make a 2 or 20 minute case for vast body of non-intuitive technical work. They then proceed to make an intuitive and rhetorically strong case against evolution, that is demonstrably wrong in science. That is really annoying and unfair. They need to chill out and become seekers. If they care so much about evolution, and cannot trust the experts, they have to take the time to willingly study a lot of non-intuitive biology. It will take a long time.

    I know you want God to come to you in science, but He instead decides to come to you through history, where you are not an expert.

    The Resurrection is just like evolution. There are over 100,000 relevant texts in languages you do not read. You do not even know what they are. There is a whole academic field devoted to studying 1st Century Palestine. There are a few holdouts, but even those that reject the Resurrection agree that there is compelling evidence for it. It is without doubt the most substantiated ancient miracle. For example, look at this remarkable dialogue between NT Wright and Sean Kelly (chair of philosophy at harvard) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsKv9uX8rwE. It is ignorant to so thoroughly reject what you do not understand. In the same way you wish ID folk would be seekers in science, would take the time to read, for example, NT Wright’s masterpiece “the Resurrection of the Son of God”?

    The key links here are these, but there are actually many many more.

    1. For students: More than a Carpenter? By McDowell
    2. For more advanced: The Resurrection of the Son of God by NT Wright.
    3. For the short attention span: http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright.....roblem.htm

    I very much encourage you to click the YouTube links, in particular the one between Sean Kelly and Wright. It is electric.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsKv9uX8rwE

  102. 102

    Dionisio, the persistent one, asks me:

    “The question is about how exactly the TEs [transposable elements] end up where they are? What mechanisms put them where they are? how? why?”

    Dionisio, at the time you asked this, I was intentionally avoiding the question because I did not want to engage in more science arguments from Hunter’s posts. You were asking an innocent question, but many others here are waiting to pounce on every word I say as evidence that I am opposed to them. This is still likely to happen right now, but I’ll take this risk for you.

    The context here is Dr. Hunter’s second critique:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....32961.html

    That referenced this ENV article:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....32961.html

    SINE’s are a type of TE, and there are several classes of them. It turns out the distribution of two different classes of SINES. The authors of the mouse genome project noted that B1s, B2s, and B4 SINEs in mice have a very similar distribution as the ID SINE in rats. Critically important to the argument, the mouse and rat SINEs under question have totally different sequences.

    Both Richard Sternberg and Cornelius Hunter bet hard here, claiming that this is strong evidence of God’s (a Designer’s) intervention here because these patterns arose independently in these lineages with two different classes of SINEs.

    Now, on the DNA evidence, they are completely right, but are missing some key details here, which I will fill in in a moment. Now of course, God could have been directing these SINEs in the genome, but the claim that there is “no explanation for this, therefore we should look at this as evidence for design” is totally false.

    Now, I will point out, as a trained Biologist, I knew immediately what the explanation was likely to be. It had to be something tied to the TE insertion mechanism, which involves a class of enzymes (transposases, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposase, https://www.ebi.ac.uk/interpro/potm/2006_12/Page2.htm) that catalyze SINE insertion, and is often relatively independent of SINE sequence. SINE insertion distribution is more correlated with the biochemical behavior of the transposases, which is not easily understood from the transposase sequence, is not necessarily dependent on SINE sequence, but often is connected DNA structure.

    Apparently not aware of this mechanism, both Sternberg and Hunter jumped to the false conclusion that SINE insertion distribution was defined by the SINE sequence. So they conclude, therefore, there is “no explanation” for this in evolution. For a biologist, this really a bizarre logical jump that makes no sense in light of what we know of transposons. There is no other way to describe this but gross and negligent ignorance.

    So knowing these facts (of which they are inexcusably unaware), the most likely cause is a similarity in the rat and mouse genome sequences in concert with transposons with similar behaving transposases (not similar SINE sequences). The most likely possibility in the genome sequences, with that pattern, was probably DNA structure. With some focused googling, I quickly found this paper:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....PMC383295/

    Which explains that GC content is closely correlated with rat and mouse SINE insertion. GC content, of course, one of the primary determinants of DNA structure and is relatively conserved across these genomes (and also may not be the whole story).

    So there we have it. There is plausible mechanism based on common patterns of transposase activity (rather than similarity of SINE sequences) that entirely explains this pattern.

    Granted, I have not fully proven this. If we wanted to do this, we would download all the sequence data, perform precise statistical tests, and also consider running experiments with the relevant transposases. We would find “common biochemistry” explains this pattern, rather than “common descent.” This is easy to explain too, because transposes are part of virus life cycles too, and are often acquired by horizontal transfer (yes this is a 100% verified process).

    This leaves me with a common refrain. Ignorance of biology is not an argument for design. Biology, no matter what they tell you, is not intuitive. It always breaks the rules. If you are going to propose you found a signal for design, you had better really know what you are talking about in the biology. It should not take 10 minutes of effort from an expert to provide evidence of an alternate mechanism.

    I would point out also, I will probably get flamed for this response. Keep that in mind the next time I refuse to answer a science question, while claiming to know the answer. I promise you I will not be BSing you. It’s just that people hold their arguments dearly. They are angry when others show them wrong.

    Okay Dionisio, you gotta comment on this and thank me, so I know you read it.

  103. 103
    StephenB says:

    Professor Swamidass,

    For what it is worth, I accept your account of what went on from stages 1 through 7 of your report. Under the circumstances, it seems that in some ways, you were treated unfairly in the earlier stages, since there can be little question that that enough evidence exists for common descent that it needs to be taken seriously. (For my part, it isn’t persuasive, but that is another story.) The point being that if you really did experience such heavy flack because you argued for common descent, it was an aberration.

    Inasmuch as you claim to have done the requisite reading, you should already know that none of ID’s heavy hitters take that tack. That some on this site reject common descent is relevant only in the sense that ID is a big tent and can accommodate that view, not because that view defines ID. That you appear not to know this, gives me pause since you claim to have done the requisite reading.

    With that said, my objections come at stage 8 of your report. Among other things, you seem unaware of what your colleagues mean when they use the phrase “evidence for evolution,” and why your comments can easily be interpreted on this site.

    When members of the “scientific community,” especially evolutionary biologists, say there is evidence for evolution, they are not arguing for common descent; they are arguing for the proposition that naturalistic forces, such as random variation, natural selection, or genetic drift, are capable of driving the entire macro- evolutionary process from start to finish with no help from God or any designer of any kind. It’s not about common descent; it is about the power of the mechanism; it is about the claim for Godless, unguided evolution in the name of science.

    The reason the academy uses the weasel word evolution rather than mechanism is to mislead the public plain and simple. It is called “strategic ambiguity.” That way they can say that “evolution” is compatible with Christianity, without saying what they really mean. If you have read anything of Eugenie Scott, you should be aware of these things. So, when you throw that word around without qualification, a red flag goes up. Naturally, we want to know of you are part of scam, or if you are simply unaware of it.

    So, I put it to you: Are you really unaware of the claims coming from your own community? Are you really confused about the meaning of “Neo Darwinism and its connotation of Godless, unguided evolution? Are you really clueless about methodological naturalism and its attempt to define ID out of existence even before the evidence is allowed to speak? Have you not heard a word about ID proponents who have been maligned and persecuted for doing nothing more than to raise questions about the Neo-Darwinistic paradigm?

    I regret your unfortunate interaction with Dr. Hunter and the DI, (if your report is accurate), but that is a separate issue from your unwillingness to address the scientific evidence for ID, or to define science and scientific methodology, or to confront the real issues with respect to ID and unguided evolution, or to own up to your own community’s extravagant claims about the creative power of nature acting alone, for which there is not a shred of evidence. If you are an “expert” on this subject, as you claim to be, then you need to demonstrate your knowledge and sensitivity on all these issues and how they intersect.

  104. 104

    As for me Prof Swamidass, I haven’t a clue what took place between you and Cornelius Hunter. But since it all seems to be wrapped up in the argument about common descent, it wouldn’t have grabbed my interest. My comments to you are based solely on your words on this blog.

  105. 105

    It is appears you did not read my original article. Please do. I reference the heavy hitters there. It still befuddles me why the Discovery Institute decided they should attack me on this.

    You are probably unaware of this, but you use the word “evolution” differently than we do in science.

    This is part of the ID movement’s populist brilliance, and is largely due to Johnson (read his early work). He decided to blur the distinction between atheism, Darwinism, and evolution. This was intentional, and he frequently wrote about his reasoning for this. Although Johnson is gone, this rhetorical strategy continues in the ID movement to this day.

    There is a great message Johnson preached where he explained his framing for “theistic evolution.” He did not deny it, but said that the term was a contradiction. Theistic evolutionists were just progressive creationists. This was a very intentional act on his part, because he did want to include people like Behe, but wanted to make “evolution” and “evolutionists” the boogie man.

    That is the history. That is a big part of why you use language the way you do. For a forgotten reason, you expect everyone that believes in design to renounce the word “evolution.” Notice, even the theistic evolutionists in your midst (Behe and Denton) do not usually use this term to describe themselves (but will agree if asked). It is entertaining at times to see how ID people fervently argue that Behe is not a theistic evolutionist.

    That is all good and fine. It is, once again, the populist brilliance of Johnson. Moreover, the New Atheists (a vocal set of primarily non-scientists, Dawkins being an exception), were all to happy to oblige. They liked the idea of baiting ID into an unwinnable fight.

    ================

    So, here is the thing, I very intentionally reject that vocabulary, because that is not what evolution has historically meant in science, nor is that what it means today. I understand you use a different vocabulary, but I as a scientist am allowed to use the word as it is used by all of my colleagues.

    In science, evolution is an “explanatory framework,” and scientists consider everyone that accepts in common descent in science to believe in “evolution.” They just divide up the way differently than you, and basically always have, from the time of Darwin.

    In the beginning, Asa Gray, Wallace, and Darwin all were “evolutionists” but all had totally different views on God’s guidance.

    Today, Behe, Collins, Torley (I think), and myself, all affirm common descent, but have different understandings of God’s guidance. Our colleagues in science consider us all “theistic evolutionists”.

    Even today, the AAAS and NSCE entirely embrace “evolutionists” like me, because we affirm common descent, and do not try and change the rules of science.

    This is not weaseling. This is consistent with the long ecuemenical tradition in science. Science was constructed so investigators could do their work without having to deal with doctrinal controversies. Muslims, Calvinists, Lutherans, Jews, Atheists, and Catholics all worked together in times of great religious strife. Even now, people of all theological convictions work together in science without arguing incessantly about theology, by following the wise rules that have been laid out.

    I know about Engenie Scott very well, she is very much in keeping with this tradition of ecumenicalism. Here “strategic ambiguity” is just another way of saying she is intentionally echoing this wisdom. The AAAS and NSCE want to make sure that people like me, Francis Collins, and literally thousands of other theistic evolutionists have freedom to operate in science without reprisal. Ironically, they have our backs even more than most in the ID movement, just because of the word “evolution.” Remember, the AAAS knows my position on evolution and chooses to work with me too.

    I admire this tradition, and I respect it. This is why I call myself a “theistic evolutionist.” I know the history in ID. I admire its populist brilliance. It continues to shape even this conversation. However, I reject it.

    Instead, what we need is more theistic evolutionists in the sciences, so that science is not so easily used by the few arrogant atheists to attack religious people.

    If you have to do Johnson’s translation in your head, to consider me a “progressive creationist,” that is fine. Do the translation, but it is not fair to expect me to relabel myself, or to expect me to use the idiosyncratic vocabulary of the ID and New Atheist movements. I certainly do not have to follow your idiosyncratic vocabulary when I am writing a post to religious leaders that does not concern the ID movement in any way.

    Now, I know that the Church is not going to embrace evolution any time soon. And I don’t care. If you read my article closely, you would see that this is not what I was doing.

    So, to be clear, I do understand where you are coming from, many of its gory details. I’ve even met and talked with many of the key players in this history. I understand that is your way of seeing the world, but I do not share it.

    I use the older, more common, more scientific and more standard definition of evolution, and this is why I call myself a “theistic evolutionist.”

  106. 106

    Dionisio

    Also you asked, “what is a Christian?” That is for a more private conversation. You can email me directly if you want to talk more.

  107. 107
    bill cole says:

    Joshua

    know about Engenie Scott very well, she is very much in keeping with this tradition of ecumenicalism. Here “strategic ambiguity” is just another way of saying she is intentionally echoing this wisdom. The AAAS and NSCE want to make sure that people like me, Francis Collins, and literally thousands of other theistic evolutionists have freedom to operate in science without reprisal. Ironically, they have our backs even more than most in the ID movement, just because of the word “evolution.” Remember, the AAAS knows my position on evolution and chooses to work with me too.

    I admire this tradition, and I respect it. This is why I call myself a “theistic evolutionist.” I know the history in ID. I admire its populist brilliance. It continues to shape even this conversation. However, I reject it.

    Instead, what we need is more theistic evolutionists in the sciences, so that science is not so easily used by the few arrogant atheists to attack religious people.

    If you have to do Johnson’s translation in your head, to consider me a “progressive creationist,” that is fine. Do the translation, but it is not fair to expect me to relabel myself, or to expect me to use the idiosyncratic vocabulary of the ID and New Atheist movements. I certainly do not have to follow your idiosyncratic vocabulary when I am writing a post to religious leaders that does not concern the ID movement in any way.

    Now, I know that the Church is not going to embrace evolution any time soon. And I don’t care. If you read my article closely, you would see that this is not what I was doing.

    So, to be clear, I do understand where you are coming from, many of its gory details. I’ve even met and talked with many of the key players in this history. I understand that is your way of seeing the world, but I do not share it.

    I use the older, more common, more scientific and more standard definition of evolution, and this is why I call myself a “theistic evolutionist.”

    I want to comment that this is a very honest comment on your current reality. I can understand this because you have chosen to make a living in academic science. I truly regret that this is the environment you are dealing with. I, with all humility, understand your position.

    The problem is that in reality we may be dealing with billions of origin events and there is currently no solid data to refute this.

  108. 108

    Bill thanks for the kind comment.

    Some day, I hope to meet you person. You work at one of the UC’s right?

    I’ll show you the problems with Doug Axe’s math. He is not the guy to trust in this area.

  109. 109
    Origenes says:

    Stephen Meyer on the rule of naturalistic science, which is so dear to Swamidass: “methodological naturalism” (hereafter, MN).

    Unfortunately, methodological naturalism is a demanding doctrine. The rule does not say “try finding a materialistic cause but keep intelligent design in the mix of live possibilities, in light of what the evidence might show.” Rather, MN tells you that you simply must posit a material or physical cause, whatever the evidence. One cannot discover evidence of the activity of a designing mind or intelligence at work in the history of life because the design hypothesis has been excluded from consideration, before considering the evidence, by the doctrine of methodological naturalism (and the definition of science that follows from it).
    Nevertheless, having a philosophical rule dictate that one may not infer or posit certain types of causes, whatever the evidence, seems an exceedingly odd way for science to proceed. Scientists tend to be realists about the power of evidence, but skeptics about philosophical barriers — which, if it is anything, the rule of MN surely is. Placing the detection of intelligent design out of the reach of scientific investigation, before the evidence has had a chance to instruct us, looks like rigging a game before any players have taken the field.
    [S.Meyer]

    Also, here Paul Nelson explains that BioLogos’ Robert Bishop badly misreads MN’s history. In short, contrary to the claims of Bishop and Swamidass, MN never was the way science was always done.

  110. 110
    bornagain77 says:

    Love Nelson’s take down of MN. Here is another article by him:

    Do You Like SETI? Fine, Then Let’s Dump Methodological Naturalism – Paul Nelson – September 24, 2014
    Excerpt: “Epistemology — how we know — and ontology — what exists — are both affected by methodological naturalism (MN). If we say, “We cannot know that a mind caused x,” laying down an epistemological boundary defined by MN, then our ontology comprising real causes for x won’t include minds.
    MN entails an ontology in which minds are the consequence of physics, and thus, can only be placeholders for a more detailed causal account in which physics is the only (ultimate) actor. You didn’t write your email to me. Physics did, and informed (the illusion of) you of that event after the fact.
    “That’s crazy,” you reply, “I certainly did write my email.” Okay, then — to what does the pronoun “I” in that sentence refer?
    Your personal agency; your mind. Are you supernatural?,,,
    You are certainly an intelligent cause, however, and your intelligence does not collapse into physics. (If it does collapse — i.e., can be reduced without explanatory loss — we haven’t the faintest idea how, which amounts to the same thing.) To explain the effects you bring about in the world — such as your email, a real pattern — we must refer to you as a unique agent.,,,
    some feature of “intelligence” must be irreducible to physics, because otherwise we’re back to physics versus physics, and there’s nothing for SETI to look for.”,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....90071.html

    And although Dr. Nelson alluded to writing an e-mail, (i.e. creating information), to tie his ‘personal agent’ argument into intelligent design, Dr. Nelson’s ‘personal agent’ argument can easily be amended to any action that ‘you’, as a personal agent, choose to take:

    “You didn’t write your email to me. Physics did, and informed the illusion of you of that event after the fact.”

    “You didn’t open the door. Physics did, and informed the illusion of you of that event after the fact.”

    “You didn’t raise your hand. Physics did, and informed the illusion you of that event after the fact.”

    “You didn’t etc.. etc.. etc… Physics did, and informed the illusion of you of that event after the fact.”

    Dr. Craig Hazen, in the following video at the 12:26 minute mark, relates how he performed, for an audience full of academics at a college, a ‘miracle’ simply by raising his arm,,

    The Intersection of Science and Religion – Craig Hazen, PhD – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....qlE#t=746s

    What should be needless to say, if raising your arm is enough to refute your supposedly ‘scientific’ worldview of atheistic materialism/naturalism, then perhaps it is time for you to seriously consider getting a new scientific worldview?

    supplemental notes

    The Confidence of Jerry Coyne – Ross Douthat – January 6, 2014
    Excerpt: But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession (by Coyne) that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary.
    http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.c.....oyne/?_r=0

    Human consciousness is much more than mere brain activity, – Mark Vernon – 18 June 2011
    However, “If you think the brain is a machine then you are committed to saying that composing a sublime poem is as involuntary an activity as having an epileptic fit. …the nature of consciousness being a tremendous mystery.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comm.....n-activity

    Physicist George Ellis on the importance of philosophy and free will – July 27, 2014
    Excerpt George Ellis: Yes. Einstein is perpetuating the belief that all causation is bottom up. This simply is not the case, as I can demonstrate with many examples from sociology, neuroscience, physiology, epigenetics, engineering, and physics. Furthermore if Einstein did not have free will in some meaningful sense, then he could not have been responsible for the theory of relativity – it would have been a product of lower level processes but not of an intelligent mind choosing between possible options.
    I find it very hard to believe this to be the case – indeed it does not seem to make any sense.
    Physicists should pay attention to Aristotle’s four forms of causation – if they have the free will to decide what they are doing. If they don’t, then why waste time talking to them? They are then not responsible for what they say.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....free-will/

  111. 111
    Dionisio says:

    Prof. S. Joshua Swamidass @102

    The context here is Dr. Hunter’s second critique:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2…..32961.html

    That referenced this ENV article:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2…..32961.html

    Are those two links supposed to point to different articles?

    They both seem to open the same article.

    Is this correct?

  112. 112
    Dionisio says:

    Prof. S. Joshua Swamidass @106

    Also you asked, “what is a Christian?” That is for a more private conversation. You can email me directly if you want to talk more.

    Please, before I email you directly -as per your request- can you provide a link pointing to the context that question was written within?

    Thank you.

  113. 113
    Origenes says:

    Swamidass insists that he is seeks common ground with ID, in fact he says “I want to find a way to peace with you”.
    Then why is it that he, after it has been pointed out to him multiple times that ID does not identify the designer as God and respects the limits of scientific inquiry, continues to misrepresent waht ID does?
    What is his motivation, other than antagonizing, for writing stuff like in #102:

    Swamidass:

    Both Richard Sternberg and Cornelius Hunter bet hard here, claiming that this is strong evidence of God’s (a Designer’s) intervention here (…)

    Now of course, God could have been directing these SINEs in the genome, but (…)

  114. 114
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @112

    What is his motivation

    Interesting question. 🙂

  115. 115
    Dr JDD says:

    Prof Swamidass:

    I apologise if my first post appeared judgemental or unnecessarily critical but my biggest concern is not science or one’s position on ID but rather their faith and their soul.

    Anyway, personally I have huge issues with BioLogos and what I have read they generally stand for as they reduce the creator God to being no more capable of what naturalistic means can do which is a dangerous position to take IMHO. You seem to take a different approach which was not at first obvious to me.

    Besides I am an outlier at this website as whilst I believe (macro)evolution is not viable science I also would question if ID is either and really all I think ID can do is continue to poke the holes in naturalistic evolution. I don’t try to argue ID is science – it is an inference – but neither is macroevolution science, it too is an inference.

  116. 116
    Mung says:

    I don’t try to argue ID is science – it is an inference – but neither is macroevolution science, it too is an inference.

    By all means, let’s remove all inference from science!

  117. 117
    Mung says:

    Prof. S. Joshua Swamidass:

    So, with this proximate history. I hope you will forgive me if I conclude that ID appears to be motivated by anti-evolutionism.

    🙂

    Yes, anti-evolutionism.

    You should hang around here. First, UD is not the DI, so hopefully you can separate the two. Second, as you’ve already seen there are people here who are sympathetic to your position. Third, we need more people like you here.

    Sure, there will be people who will disagree with you and some who will be rather impolite about it. But then that probably applies to most of us.

    Except gpuccio, he’s such a gentleman. 😉

    Many people here really would like to discuss the science. And there are those who intentionally try to avoid the whole religion aspect because they do think it detracts from ID as science.

  118. 118
    vjtorley says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I’d just like to address a couple of remarks you made in post #94 above. You wrote:

    We know that it is logically impossible for evolution to be both specified (Theism) and open ended (Darwinian). And, as I pointed out earlier, either the design precedes and shapes the evolutionary process, or else the evolutionary process precedes and shapes the design (appearance of). It cannot be both…

    We are not discussing evolution as a general mechanism, but rather as a special mechanism that has been designed to achieve a particular result. If the initial conditions are designed such that the emerging evolution will produce homo-sapiens (and nothing else), then it follows that, evolution, so designed (or arranged for by previous design), is not capable of producing many outcomes.

    A theistic evolutionist would have to say, in response to the dichotomy you posed, that God’s design precedes and shapes the evolutionary process. That is, the evolutionary process was designed in order to produce us. So in the realm of final causality, God’s design clearly has priority. However, in terms of temporal priority, it’s the other way round: evolution starts rolling around 4 billion years ago, culminating in the appearance of true human beings (which I would date at the arrival of Homo heidelbergensis or Homo antecessor) around one million years ago.

    A theistic evolutionist like Newman would also have to concede that evolution, having been designed by God, was not capable of producing many outcomes after all, and that the contingency of the evolutionary process is only apparent. In other words, if the tape of life were re-run, we’d get exactly the same results. That’s a very strong view, but I understand that arch-atheist Richard Dawkins minimizes the contingency of evolution, as well.

    As I said, this way of looking at God’s modus operandi is not my own personal view; indeed, it sounds a bit too much like the clockwork universe to me. However, as far as I can tell, it’s a logically consistent view.

  119. 119
    Mung says:

    The problem isn’t methodological naturalism, the problem is naturalism, period.

    Claims about the nature of nature are not scientific. Not if science is going to be science without metaphysics and science without theology.

    Of course, science is neither of those.

    Naturalism is a theological stance.

  120. 120
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Professor Swamidass,

    Let me begin by thanking you for providing the links to N.T. Wright’s exchange with Sean Kelly on the Resurrection, which was fascinating to watch. I found the exchange quite thought-provoking. Thank you again.

    On the issue of methodological naturalism, I had a look at the essay by Ted Davis which you linked to, on Robert Boyle’s philosophy of science, at http://biologos.org/blogs/ted-.....of-mercury . Briefly, Davis’s claim is that methodological naturalism became an established part of the scientific method around 350 years ago, during the 1660s, and that Boyle helped make it so. With the greatest respect, I think Davis is wrong here.

    I’ll try and state my point of view as concisely as I can. I have done quite a bit of my own research into the meaning and the history of “methodological naturalism.” I explore this in my two posts at http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....kfive.html and http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....cksix.html (parts of which I’ve published on Uncommon Descent). After carefully distinguishing methodological naturalism from several other principles, I argue that methodological naturalism is properly defined as an injunction: when doing science, we should assume that natural causes are sufficient to account for all observed phenomena, and for precisely this reason, all talk of the supernatural is banished from science.

    I go on to argue that claims that methodological naturalism goes back to the Middle Ages, or for that matter, the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, are factually mistaken, as well as being anachronistic. I contend that it was not science, but philosophy that was responsible for the public acceptance of methodological naturalism as a guiding principle for doing science, in the nineteenth century. Indeed, I would go so far as to describe Kant as the father of methodological naturalism, and Hume as its grandfather.

    I show that it was only in the 1830s that methodological naturalism makes its appearance in the field of science, and that it was not until the 1870s that it became accepted as part of the scientific method – although the prohibition on “God-talk” when doing science was flouted as late as 1900, by Lord Kelvin.

    Turning to Davis’ claims about Boyle: all they establish is that Boyle was averse to scientific hypotheses which require continual supernatural intervention, in the form of miracles; and that appealing to invisible and intangible causes, by itself, explains very little in the field of science. I would accept that. But that doesn’t make Boyle a methodological naturalist. In fact, even in his writings on natural philosophy, he talked about the Creator. See, for instance, his work, Some considerations touching the vsefulnesse of experimental naturall philosophy propos’d in familiar discourses to a friend, by way of invitation to the study of it. If you look at Essays 1 and 2, you’ll see that Boyle repeatedly refers to God the Creator, and praises Him as the author of the various contrivances found in Nature, which the microscope had only recently revealed in his day. And in essay 4, Boyle even gets polemical: the chapter is titled, “Containing a requisite Digression concerning those that would exclude the Deity from intermedling with Matter.” Boyle writes:

    I shall next take notice, That Philosophers, who scorn to ascribe any thing to God, do often deceive themselves, in thinking they have sufficiently satisfied our Enquiries, when they have given us the nearest and most immediate causes of some things; whereas oftentimes the assignment of those Causes is but the manifesting that such and such Effects may be deduc’d from the more Catholick affections of things, though these be not unfrequently as abstruse as the Phaenomena explicated by them, as having onely their Effects more obvious, not their Nature better understood…

    …That though the Effects of Gravity indeed be very obvious, yet the Cause and Nature of it are as obscure as those of almost any Phaenomena it can be brought to explicate. And that therefore he that desires no further account, desists too soon from his Enquiries, and acquiesces long before he comes to his Journies end. And indeed, the investigation of the true nature and adequate cause of gravity, is a task of that difficulty, that in spight of ought I have hitherto seen or read, I must yet retain great doubts whether they have been clearly and solidly made out by any Man. And sure, Pyrophilus, there are divers Effects in Nature, of which, though the immediate Cause may be plausibly assign’d, yet if we further enquire in?to the Causes of those Causes, and desist not from ascending in the Scale of Causes till we are arriv’d at the top of it, we shall perhaps finde the more Catholick and Primary causes of Things, to be either certain, primitive, general and fix’d Laws of Nature (or rules of Action and Passion among the parcels of the Universal Matter) or else the Shape, Size, Motion, and other primary Affections of the smallest parts of Matter, and of their first Coalitions or Clusters: especially those endowed with seminal Faculties or Properties, or (to dispatch) the admirable conspiring of the several parts of the Universe to the production of particular Effects; of all which it will be difficult to give a satisfactory Account, without acknowledging an intelligent Author or Disposer of Things.

    Boyle doesn’t sound like a methodological naturalist to me.

    In http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....cksix.html , I go on to list 31 scientists from history including Boyle) who made scientific arguments for the supernatural. Think what you will of these arguments; the point is that they didn’t think that their scientific work came to a screeching halt whenever they talked about the supernatural.

    The links of mine contain material which I’n still working on. That’s why they look rough in places and are missing some text. My apologies.

  121. 121
    Seversky says:

    Mung @ 118

    The problem isn’t methodological naturalism, the problem is naturalism, period.

    It may be a problem for you. But that may just be your nature.

    Claims about the nature of nature are not scientific. Not if science is going to be science without metaphysics and science without theology.

    If science is about the study of the nature of things then naturalism and science are pretty much the same thing. If God exists He has a nature so that part of theology which investigates the nature of God is naturalistic. Naturalism is inescapable.

    Of course, science is neither of those.

    See above

    Naturalism is a theological stance.

    Now you’re just channeling Cornelius Hunter.

  122. 122
    jerry says:

    In order to get into the swing of things I just got the audio book for my long walks each day

    The Gene – An Intimate History – just out this week

    http://amzn.to/1WHZ8iv

    While I am sure this will be interesting and probably contains zero that ID objects to, what I am waiting for is someone knowledgeable to review Wilcox’s review of what makes us human

    Our Genetic Prehistory: Did Genes Make Us Human?

    It is not the genes that makes humans different from chimps or any other animal (they contribute) but it is the control mechanisms for the expression of the genes. And the extent of it apparently cannot be explained by any biological process we know of. Meanwhile all this back and forth with Prof. Swamidass obscures the underlying issues.

    Here is the writeup of “The Gene” on Amazon for those interested

    From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies—a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?

    Siddhartha Mukherjee has a written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer. Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.

    Throughout the narrative, the story of Mukherjee’s own family—with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness—cuts like a bright, red line, reminding us of the many questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In superb prose and with an instinct for the dramatic scene, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation—from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Morgan to Crick, Watson and Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary twenty-first century innovators who mapped the human genome.

    As The New Yorker said of The Emperor of All Maladies, “It’s hard to think of many books for a general audience that have rendered any area of modern science and technology with such intelligence, accessibility, and compassion…An extraordinary achievement.” Riveting, revelatory, and magisterial history of a scientific idea coming to life, and an essential preparation for the moral complexity introduced by our ability to create or “write” the human genome, The Gene is a must-read for everyone concerned about the definition and future of humanity. This is the most crucial science of our time, intimately explained by a master.

  123. 123
    bill cole says:

    Dr Swamidass

    @50 evidence for the Resurrection

    Most people are profoundly ignorant of what they reject. The problem is that they make a rhetorical case without actually seeking truth. This is no different with the Resurrection.

    I tell them that the “way God makes himself known to the world is through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Of course there is evidence of God in nature, but without Jesus it is hard to appreciate it.”

    I have listened to the video and read the first paper. They are all very interesting discussions. Thank you so much for providing these links:-)

  124. 124
    StephenB says:

    Professor Swamidass, thank you for responding. I appreciate the fact that you are trying to play chess with a number of people, and can spare only so much time.

    The issue is not about how members of the scientific community use the word evolution so much as it is about their partisan and unwarranted claims about “unguided evolution” and what it can do. It really has nothing to do with your assessment of Philip Johnson, or your suspicion that I have been unduly influenced by him, or even that I thoughtlessly use his language to express myself, all of which are really nothing more than veiled ad-hominem attacks on me (and Johnson himself). Meaning no disrespect, but you do a lot of that.

    There was a time when Theistic Evolution was a perfectly legitimate world view, so long as it was framed as God guided evolution. Contemporary TEs however, are in a totally different category. Their understanding of God and evolution is based on the insane proposition that God guided an unguided process, which is obviously as incoherent as an idea can get.

    The Behe varieties represent the old variety of TE; the BioLogos variety represents the new TE. You appear not to understand the difference and, at times, seem to consciously conflate them for some reason—I know not what. (distract?) So, when people say that Behe is not a TE, they simply mean that he is not a contemporary TE. That’s all there is to it. (No Johnsonian conspiracty or anything like that)

    May I offer a mild corrective? I am not asking people to “renounce” the word evolution. I am asking them to clarify their meaning when they use such an ambiguous term, especially since it ignores the difference between the process that is alleged to produce all biodiversity and the mechanism that is alleged to drive it (a point that you conveniently ignore over and over again).

    Frankly, I don’t care which vocabulary you use, whether it come from Johnson, Darwin, Dawkins, Scott, Miller, or anyone else. I don’t even care that we have a different way of perceiving the world, or that you think that the academy is wonderful.

    I am simply asking you to respond to the three substantive points that define the debate:

    [a] 39 Nobel Laureates wrote the Kansas State Board of Education to inform them that “evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection”

    This is also the clear position of the vast majority of heavy hitters in your field. It is also presented as a major theme in most biology textbooks, namely that evolution is a random (by which they mean, purposeless), unplanned, process.

    When your colleagues say “evolution is a fact,” they mean that unguided, purposeless evolution is a fact. So, I have three simple questions:

    [a] Do you agree with your colleagues on this matter? (Evolution is unguided and unplanned) If you don’t agree with them, why do you imply otherwise?

    [b] Is it logically possible, as modern TEs believe, for God to plan and guide an unplanned, unguided process? In keeping with that point, is it logically possible for God to direct an undirected process?

    [c] What evidence can you cite in defense of the main claim your associates are asking the world to accept as an incontestable fact: Naturalistic mechanisms, acting alone, can drive the macro-evolutionary process from beginning to end.

    (On the last question: Hopefully, you will answer truthfully and concede that no such evidence exists and that your colleagues are simply providing evidence for common descent as if it supported their far more extravagant claim. In other words, they are bluffing.)

  125. 125
    Andere Stimme says:

    Doc Swamidass,

    In your post @217 in the other thread, you say you can think of five differences between ID and things like fraud detection, SETI, etc. If your objections to ID as science are to be taken seriously, we really need to know what they are.

    As I mentioned, I disagree that ID proponents are asking that the basic rules of science be altered. What rule change do you think ID proponents are suggesting?

    I have other things I’d like to ask but, mindful of the demands on your time, I’ll limit myself to those two.

  126. 126

    @119

    VJ,

    Thanks for the thoughts here. Let me start by saying I am out of my expertise here. This is really solidly a question of philosophy and history of science. I have my opinions, but I strongly defer to the philosophers and historians in this, and I usually expect people to defer to me on details of computational biology (which is the main reason I do not agree with ID).

    So, I freely admit, I am not an expert here, and rely on expert guidance in philosophy and history. So, rather than getting into the thick of it with you, I would just make some high level observations, and point out the places where we might agree.

    Some observations…

    1. I notice both in myself and in others that this is one of the most emotionally charged parts of the debate. I am not even entirely sure why this is. I imagine agreement here on everything is not likely anytime soon.

    2. There may be an important place of common ground here. It appears that you agree with me that since at least the 1870s (of course I’d put the date farther back) that MN has been the rule in science. If is what you think, we should also be able to agree that the DI movement is trying to change this rule right now, even though it has been established in science for a very long time (at least 100 years). Would you agree with that characterization?

    3. There appears to be a sharp schism in the history/philosophy of science communities about this question. Very generally speaking, in my conversations I’ve noted a pattern:

    a) most Christian philosophers are in the anti-MN camp, especially those from the Biola school of thought, which is very influential here.
    b) most non-Christian philosophers are in the pro-MN camp, in fact it is quite hard to find many at secular universities that are anti-MN.
    c) most (both Christian and not) science historians are in the pro-MN camp.
    d) most scientists (both Christian and not) are in the pro-MN camp

    In practice, #1 and #3 together to make conversations between Christian scientists and Christian philosophers about science very contentious in the current moment. In fact, Christian philosophers are some of the most difficult people for me to talk to about science, which is why I appreciate VJ less combative tack. I think both sides of this debate are honestly pretty angry with each other at this point (I admit this is part of my challenge here).

    4. Perhaps #2 is a better starting point, if you agree. From here, we should all be able to admit, that MN is part of mainstream science, as it is currently defined. Perhaps this is inconsistent or unfair, and ID appears to want to change this, but there appears to be great disagreement about this between the relevant disciplines (scientists, philosophers, and historians). If we agree with that, it is not inaccurate to say that “ID wants to change the current rules of [mainstream] science.” Do you agree? Of course one camp wants to keep MN, the other wants to ditch it.

    5. On a side note, do you know who Ted Davis is? He is the leading science historian on Robert Boyle. He is “the” guy to listen to Boyle. That was just one article of his, but he also writes about Boyle as the “Father of ID” and explains how he sees his references to the Creator (http://biologos.org/blogs/ted-.....ent-design, http://biologos.org/blogs/ted-.....d-vocation). He has written extensively on this topic, and he comes down (like most historians I’ve talked to) into the pro-MN camp. A videotaped dialogue with me and Davis on just this point in the coming couple months is being planned.

    WIth that background, it makes me very curious what a friendly dialogue between Davis and someone like you might look like on this topic. Once again, I am not an expert, so I’d just be curious to see how that dialogue played out, and if it could illuminate this sharp difference in interpreting Boyle.

    =====

    So rounding things up. I hope #2 and #4 are places agreement. It would be great if they are.

    But this is not a new argument either. This has been going on for at least 20 years. The camps are entrenched, and science (as a whole) has moved on. The only people arguing about this appear to be people outside science, and I am one of the very few scientists even willing to talk about it.

    I understand you disagree with MN, but where are you going from here? It does not look any progress is being made in, say, the last ten years. In light of the last 20 years of arguing about this, and now the current stalemate that leaves scientists in the pro-MN camp, what exactly is your strategy here? What is your endgame? What is your plan? Is this just endless conflict? Do you see a way to “win”?

    Or is there a path to peace?

  127. 127

    With that last post I’ll be ending my time here for a while.

    Thank you to all that made genuine efforts to welcome me and understand what someone outside your community thinks. I’ve enjoyed talking to you, and invite you to stay in contact.

    For those that doubt my intentions, especially those that joined the conversation late, I assure you I am not a troll. I’d like to think we are not as different as you are convinced.

    At the same time, I do appreciate those that took seriously and warmly welcome my genuine effort for peace. In contentious areas, these conversations are always difficult. We have a long journey ahead of us all, and I hope we can do better.

    I wish you well.

    PS. Dionisio see @16.

  128. 128
    Mung says:

    I keep seeing these claims that computational biology somehow falsifies ID. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Compositional Evolution: The Impact of Sex, Symbiosis, and Modularity on the Gradualist Framework of Evolution

  129. 129
    Mung says:

    Irreducibly metaphysical judgments as to the nature of being, form, time, space, matter, cause, truth, knowledge, explanation, wholes, parts, and the like are the starting point of science, not its conclusions.

    Michael Hanby

  130. 130
    Polanyi says:

    @VT

    It isn’t clear to me that they are denying the morphological similarities between humans and the red apes, rather they seem to think these can be brushed off as the result of convergent evolution (if the chimp theory stands). At least, this is what I am getting from browsing through their paper…

    Regards

    Johan

  131. 131
    StephenB says:

    Professor Swamidass:

    With that last post I’ll be ending my time here for a while.

    I note that Professor Swamidass has left the following questions unanswered:

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————

    {Fact: 39 Nobel Laureates wrote the Kansas State Board of Education to inform them that “evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection”.”

    This is also the clear position of the vast majority of heavy hitters in your field. It is also presented as a major theme in most biology textbooks, namely that evolution is a random (by which they mean, purposeless), unplanned, process.

    When your colleagues say “evolution is a fact,” they mean that unguided, purposeless evolution is a fact. So, I have three simple questions}:

    [a] Do you agree with your colleagues on this matter? (Evolution is unguided and unplanned) If you don’t agree with them, why do you imply otherwise?

    [b] Is it logically possible, as modern TEs believe, for God to plan and guide an unplanned, unguided process? In keeping with that point, is it logically possible for God to direct an undirected process?

    [c] What evidence can you cite in defense of the main claim your associates are asking the world to accept as an incontestable fact: Naturalistic mechanisms, acting alone, can drive the macro-evolutionary process from beginning to end.

    ————————————————————————————————————————–

    It appears that the good professor wants to enjoy of satisfaction of scrutinzing his adversaries, but would prefer to avoid the challenge of being scrutinized.

    On the important questions about his own position of Theistic Evolution, he chooses to take a pass and tell us things that we already know, such as the historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection, and to edify us with his dubious interpretation of history.

    It’s the right way to avoid debate, but the wrong way to establish credibility.

  132. 132
    Origenes says:

    VJTorley: In other words, if the tape of life were re-run, we’d get exactly the same results.

    The hypothesis that God used evolution as a fine-tuned means to produce human beings, squarely contradicts the scientific hypothesis of evolution as a purposeless process driven by random variation. These opposing hypotheses cannot both be true.

    Swamidass: I think there is another way to view the apparent conflict. I think that science is incomplete, and we need the theology to complete it. The problem with science is not that it is wrong, it is that it is incomplete.

    So when science says that variation is produced by purposeless random mutations then this is not wrong but “incomplete”. Science is completed by theology which says that mutations are, in fact, non-random and purpose-driven.

    Swamidass: Theology completes the picture, like a different perspective on the same truth.

    There is no “same truth” here. There are irreconcilable opposite claims about reality. If science would say “there are two” and theology would say “there are seven”, then one could say stuff like “both are right”, “science is not wrong, only incomplete” and “theology completes science”. But if science says “there is no purpose behind the chemistry of life” and theology says “there is purpose behind the chemistry of life”, then one cannot coherently hold those things.

    Swamidass: God guides, but science cannot see His guidance. Evolution (if its true) is guided, but science can’t see this guidance. What is so contradictory and complicated about this?

    Things become contradictory when you say that science is not wrong when it says that evolution is unguided and random. It’s very simple: if God guides evolution, then science’s assessment of evolution as unguided and random is mistaken. Not being able to see something, due to the blinders of methodological naturalism, does not make science right.

    I expect Swamidass to understand that it is in BioLogos best interest to try to steer away from StephenB’s devastating question:

    Is it logically possible, as modern TEs believe, for God to plan and guide an unplanned, unguided process? In keeping with that point, is it logically possible for God to direct an undirected process?

  133. 133
    jerry says:

    The hypothesis that God used evolution as a fine-tuned means to produce human beings, squarely contradicts the scientific hypothesis of evolution as a purposeless process driven by random variation. These opposing hypotheses cannot both be true.

    Yes, they can. If initial and boundary conditions were set up so that the purposeless and random process could not produce certain results but could produce others, then both could be true.

    There would definitely be design in this but in the conditions surrounding the purposeless process. So if one examined the process it would appear purposeless and random but in fact was being guided by these exterior conditions which may appear invisible to ordinary investigation.

    Do I believe it? No but it is possible that God could have done it this way.

    We have had these discussion before but they tend to get lost.

  134. 134
    jerry says:

    I think there is another way to view the apparent conflict. I think that science is incomplete, and we need the theology to complete it.

    This is an interesting statement because it is a statement consistent with TE’s who accept design for the universe but not for evolution. Their theology is that God is omnipotent and can set up the universe anyway He wants. And one of the ways He does it through initial and boundary conditions which guide various processes over time to reach a desired result. See my domino example above.

    The TE’s feel this is a superior God to worship as opposed to the One provided by ID which is constantly making corrections in His creation.

    Prof Swamidass was ok with ID for universe design and origin of life but not for evolution and asked why ID insisted on pursuing design in evolution and didn’t just stop at universe design and origin of life. This may be the theology needed to complete the science he was talking about.

    See

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-607465

    Stephen Barr is writing a book on evolution and will be interesting to see what tack he takes. He is a TE I believe.

  135. 135
    Mung says:

    I note that Professor Swamidass has left the following questions unanswered

    Does he have tenure?

  136. 136
    StephenB says:

    Origenes: The hypothesis that God used evolution as a fine-tuned means to produce human beings, squarely contradicts the scientific hypothesis of evolution as a purposeless process driven by random variation. These opposing hypotheses cannot both be true.

    Jerry

    Yes, they can.

    No, they can’t.

    If initial and boundary conditions were set up so that the purposeless and random process could not produce certain results but could produce others, then both could be true.

    If initial conditions are set up so that unwanted outcomes will be closed off, then the process that follows is not random, since a random process is, by definition, one in which unwanted outcomes are not closed off.

  137. 137
    Mung says:

    Origenes:

    The hypothesis that God used evolution as a fine-tuned means to produce human beings, squarely contradicts the scientific hypothesis of evolution as a purposeless process driven by random variation. These opposing hypotheses cannot both be true.

    What is it that qualifies either one of those as an hypothesis?

  138. 138
    mad doc says:

    I think that The following statement by Dr Swamidass is correct (from his retort to Dr Hunter on Dr S’s blog):
    “I am using the rules of mainstream science, and under these rules the evidence for common descent is strong. No other theory (that is known and does not involve God) explains the data nearly as well.”
    This I think is true. In “mainstream science” i.e. God is ruled out, the only explanation for evolution is common descent. Because, no living things were created independently.

    However, the only way you can incorporate the evolutionary paradigm and common descent with God is to have Him miraculously intervene countless trillions of times over billions of years to create the first human beings (theistic evolution). And unless I have misread him this is what Dr Swamidass believes. In fact we have not witnessed any evolution. In fact, empirically we observe degradation of the genome over time. Did evolution stop after “Adam” and “Eve” were created?
    I think it is logically impossible for Dr Swamidass to believe in evolution, be a scientist and also a be Theist at the same time

  139. 139
    Origenes says:

    Jerry: If initial and boundary conditions were set up so that the purposeless and random process could not produce certain results but could produce others, then both could be true.
    There would definitely be design in this but in the conditions surrounding the purposeless process. So if one examined the process it would appear purposeless and random but in fact was being guided by these exterior conditions which may appear invisible to ordinary investigation.

    So, we have a larger purposeful system producing human beings (hereafter, LPS), which breaks down in two components: (1) a purposeless process, and (2) purposeful guiding conditions.

    This is incoherent because:
    Assuming that in order for LPS to work it needs both components; the “purposeless process” is a functionally integrated part of LPS. Therefore the “purposeless process” is functional and has purpose by definition.

  140. 140
    Origenes says:

    Both StephenB and VJTorley agree that the theistic evolutionist must hold that science is wrong when it says that man was not the intended result of evolution.

    SB: “God either guided the process or he didn’t. Man was either the intended result of the process or he wasn’t. Do you not grasp the problem here? Both cannot be true at the same time.”

    VJTorley: A theistic evolutionist like Newman would also have to concede that evolution, having been designed by God, was not capable of producing many outcomes after all, and that the contingency of the evolutionary process is only apparent. In other words, if the tape of life were re-run, we’d get exactly the same results.

    — Enters the ‘there are two truths’ argument of theistic evolutionism (TE):
    But “science cannot see His guidance”, so it is “right” when it says that evolution is purposeless.

    Newman: I do not [see] that ‘the accidental evolution of organic beings’ is inconsistent with divine design — It is accidental to us, not to God.

    The problem for Newman and TE is that evolution cannot be accidental to us, if it is not accidental to God. Evolution may appear accidental to us, but we would be wrong if we think that it is accidental. Accidental evolution can neither be true nor part of the truth.

    Swamidass: I just tell students that science is just “part of the story,” it is “incomplete.”

    If the true story of evolution is that it is guided, then it cannot be “part of the story” that it is unguided.

    Swamidass: He [Behe] compares evolution to a “trick shot” in billiards, where the initial conditions and skill of the player conspire to make the improbable certain, ….

    During the trick shot, billiard balls may appear to be moving in random fashion, but the belief that this is actually the case is dead wrong.

    Swamidass: … naturalistic macroevolution … provides a coherent explanation of Biology.

    Similarly, “moving about randomly” provides a “coherent” explanation of a trick shot.

  141. 141
    jerry says:

    This is incoherent

    There is nothing incoherent about it. The boundary and initial conditions (A) are independent of the random process (B). This is your LPS. Both can exist without the other. If the boundary conditions are different (A’) it may result that nothing gets produced. This will be LPS’ If they are a different in another way (A”) then some other set of results happen. This is LPS”

    How is that incoherent?

    All this has been presented before. See

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-291850

    from 8 years ago. And the responses after this comment

    The title of the thread has the word incoherent in it

  142. 142
    Origenes says:

    Jerry #141,

    I agree with what you are saying. But I’m not sure that I understand your point. Are you arguing that random process (B) is not functionally integrated in LPS?

    Because that is an essential part of my argument, which boils down to the idea that it is incoherent to attribute purposelessness to a functional process.

    – —
    edit: I see that you have added a link to your post. So I’m gonna do some reading. My response above may very well be too hasty.

  143. 143
    jerry says:

    functionally integrated in LPS

    Your LPS is a construct that does not have to exist but you have taken two independent entities and created it as a whole, when it it best looked at two separate situations that somehow were combined but do not have to be.

    An easy way to explain this is with weather. Take the weather which produces rain in varying amounts at varying times, some very little, some very much, some in between. That is our random process. No one can predict very far in advance the amount of rain. So that is B.

    A, A’ and A” are three valleys in the path of these rain storms. One is such that there is a river bed often dry but often experiences flash floods that eliminates any coherent combination of plant life, animal life and terrain. The next valley is similar but someone has channelled the water flow so that the rain when it comes, irrigates the valley and creates arable land and a pleasant terrain. The third valley had a massive dam built with the aid of explosions to form sort of an earth dam. The dam was started by landslides into the valley from the valley walls. This valley has turned into a recreational area as the rain is captured into a lake for boating and swimming. It is very pleasant looking place.

    Same random rain process (B) and three different types of boundary conditions and initial conditions (A, A’. A”). Three different outcomes, two designed one not. Each of the designed processes of the water management could look like it happened naturally too so that no one could say it was intelligently designed.

  144. 144
    bill cole says:

    Jerry Origenes VJ Mung

    know about Engenie Scott very well, she is very much in keeping with this tradition of ecumenicalism. Here “strategic ambiguity” is just another way of saying she is intentionally echoing this wisdom. The AAAS and NSCE want to make sure that people like me, Francis Collins, and literally thousands of other theistic evolutionists have freedom to operate in science without reprisal. Ironically, they have our backs even more than most in the ID movement, just because of the word “evolution.” Remember, the AAAS knows my position on evolution and chooses to work with me too.

    I admire this tradition, and I respect it. This is why I call myself a “theistic evolutionist.” I know the history in ID. I admire its populist brilliance. It continues to shape even this conversation. However, I reject it.

    Instead, what we need is more theistic evolutionists in the sciences, so that science is not so easily used by the few arrogant atheists to attack religious people.

    The conversation now makes sense to me. Joshua simply thinks ID is the wrong strategy. He is able to do his science and not hide his faith as long as he embraces evolution. ID currently is dangerous to scientists because it cannot protect them in the academic world. Personally I think Joshua understands and accepts ID for exactly what it is but he is not in position to support it. Very interesting that Christianity is not as big a threat to Atheism as a scientific inference and explanation of life that implies the supernatural.
    Why is this?

  145. 145
    jerry says:

    Very interesting that Christianity is not as big a threat to Atheism as a scientific inference and explanation of life that implies the supernatural.
    Why is this?

    A Chinese paleontologist working with Stephen Meyers supposedly said that in China you can criticize Darwin but not the state while in the United States you can criticize the state but not Darwin.

    If you want to understand this then you will have to leave science and go to the history of “Critical Thinking” which has won the day in the universities. They allow criticism of everything but atheism and Darwin is an essential part of atheism. Without it, atheism would die. So anyone who defends a gradualistic approach to macro evolution is essentially defending atheism.

    Though many of the TE’s believe they are defending a superior God by doing so. For them, a lot of it has its origin in the theodicy argument. The Critical Thinking advocates are pushing for a communist economic system and the only way to get there is to destroy Christianity and the United States.

    They make interesting bed fellows.

  146. 146
    Origenes says:

    Jerry: Your LPS is a construct that does not have to exist but you have taken two independent entities and created it as a whole, when it it best looked at two separate situations that somehow were combined but do not have to be.

    I don’t understand where this is going. There is no need for me to argue for the existence of LPS. According to TE, God created a purposeful system which produces human beings (LPS).
    You claim that it is coherent to break LPS down in two components:
    (1) a purposeless process.
    (2) purposeful guiding conditions.

    For me this is the starting point of our discussion. Do you agree?

  147. 147
    StephenB says:

    It’s really hard to believe that people will argue on behalf of the incredible proposition that a purposeless process is purposeful. The initial boundary conditions are NOT independent of the process that follows if they define and direct the outcome of the process. If the process itself was random, no such direction would be possible. A random process is free to do what it will.

    The only thing I can suggest is that some here are confusing the process with some elements within the process. If you have a wide funnel that leads to an open box, and if you throw 10 balls in that funnel, the outcome is assured. All ten balls will go into the box.

    One could argue that there are random elements within the process, but the process as a whole cannot be random. It has not, for example, been determined how the balls will bounce off the inside the funnel or against each other. It has not been determined exactly how many balls will be side by side at each level of the descent. These different variations are elements within the process. They are not the process itself.

    How those balls behave randomly along the way has absolutely nothing to do with the final result. The outcome is not being determined by randomness, it is being determined by the set up. If the process was truly random, then the outcome would not be assured. On the contrary, the outcome of a truly random process is indeterminate.

    In fact, it is the funnel that is calling the shots. The random elements are just along for the ride. The process, as a whole, is not random because the funnel will not allow randomness to play a significant role, or to be what it is—open ended.

  148. 148
    StephenB says:

    Bill Cole

    The conversation now makes sense to me. Joshua simply thinks ID is the wrong strategy. He is able to do his science and not hide his faith as long as he embraces evolution. ID currently is dangerous to scientists because it cannot protect them in the academic world. Personally I think Joshua understands and accepts ID for exactly what it is but he is not in position to support it. Very interesting that Christianity is not as big a threat to Atheism as a scientific inference and explanation of life that implies the supernatural.
    Why is this?

    My problem with Joshua is that he will not confront or even discuss the facts. I presented incontrovertible proof that his colleagues support Godless, Darwinian, unguided evolution in the name of science. Joshua says he identifies and agrees with his colleagues on matters of science. At the same time, he says that he is not a “Darwinst.” How can he agree with NeoDarwinian science and not be a NeoDarwinist. Once presented with that problem, he abandoned the discussion. Something is wrong here.

  149. 149
    jerry says:

    I don’t understand where this is going.

    Neither do I which may limit my saying much more on this. These discussion end up in circles. I suggest you stop using the term “purposeless.” That will help. I don’t think it adds anything. Use “random” and things may be clearer.

    Certainly in my example, rain has an outcome and may be considered to some extent random. So use random and assume everything has some outcome and see what happens. Similarly mutations may be random and have they outcomes.

    There is no need for me to argue for the existence of LPS.

    LPS is a term so vague that it has no real meaning. You could argue that the LPS is the universe, the earth, the oceans, or even a test tube or any combination in between. Each level of organization you choose can be broken down into sub units which are independent of each other so any grouping could be arbitrary.

    Again stay away from using the term “purposeless” or even “purpose.” Things will be clearer.

    For an atheist, nothing can have purpose in nature. Purpose implies design and that is anathema. (purpose – the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists)

  150. 150
    Origenes says:

    Jerry, maybe you can help me to get a clearer picture of what is random according to the theistic evolutionist and what’s not.
    What exactly is the random part of evolution? Is only the outcome of random mutations, random? Or are all the aspects of evolution, as they represent themselves to science, random? Are e.g. the building blocks of life, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids and proteins, random? Or are they part of the boundaries and initial conditions? Is Bio-semiosis, as in the production of proteins, random?

  151. 151
    StephenB says:

    VJ, you write,

    A theistic evolutionist would have to say, in response to the dichotomy you posed, that God’s design precedes and shapes the evolutionary process. That is, the evolutionary process was designed in order to produce us. So in the realm of final causality, God’s design clearly has priority. However, in terms of temporal priority, it’s the other way round: evolution starts rolling around 4 billion years ago, culminating in the appearance of true human beings (which I would date at the arrival of Homo heidelbergensis or Homo antecessor) around one million years ago.

    VJ: Once again, I thank you for taking time to address my points. I am not clear on how recognizing or observing stages 2 and 3 of a process reverses the order of stages l, 2, and 3 of that same process. (If that is what you are saying). What does “temporal priority” mean in that context and how could it reverse the order?

    As I said, this way of looking at God’s modus operandi is not my own personal view; indeed, it sounds a bit too much like the clockwork universe to me. However, as far as I can tell, it’s a logically consistent view.

    I understand and appreciate that this is not your view. You are simply probing the idea that it could be logically possible if we open up our minds to all possibilities.

    Permit me to present another way of understanding this apparent dilemma. If truth is unified, then science properly applied will reflect the truths of God’s natural revelation, which will be compatible with reason and the Theological truths revealed in Scripture. We know that there is only one truth with many aspects (as opposed to many truths [one truth for theology and another for science etc.] because Logos , the rational principle of the universe, has been revealed to us in Scripture. Thus, if science yields a conclusion (*or a perception*) that militates against reason or a known theological truth, we may safely assume that the perception is wrong and the methodology is flawed. Otherwise, we must reject Logos, which is the very foundation of science.

  152. 152
    zeroseven says:

    Isn’t it really simple? God could set up an infinity of purposeless processes. Because he is omniscient, he knows exactly what the outcome of every one of the infinity processes is. Therefore he just chooses the one that will result in human beings.

  153. 153
    Eric Anderson says:

    vjtorley @82:

    Apologies for the late reply, but I hope you may still read this.

    In responding to my comment you wrote:

    What’s wrong with (b)? For instance, some writers have proposed that God could have used quantum mechanics to guarantee the outcome of evolution, making His work appear random, even though it was in fact intentional.

    Sure. This is Ken Miller’s approach, for example. Yes, it is indeed possible to purposely design something that does not appear designed.

    But such an approach suffers from several problems: First, there is no evidence for it. Second, it explains too much, meaning that literally anything can be explained by some powerful entity working secretly behind the scenes to manipulate the outcome. Why did I win the lottery? Well, God used quantum mechanics to guarantee the outcome. Why did the Green Bay Packers lose the football game? Well, God was manipulating the elements behind the scenes. This approach becomes the God-of-the-gaps argument taken to an extreme.

    Furthermore — as a particular irony for the theist who also holds to Darwinism — the idea that someone is manipulating things behind the scenes is a tacit acknowledgement that the Darwinian mechanism is itself incapable of producing the design in question. Which is precisely the point of the criticism leveled at Darwinism. And if Darwinian evolution is incapable of producing, say, a human from an ape-like creature, then what makes us thing it is capable of producing, say, a whale from a land-dwelling mammal? Now we are just picking and choosing, without any coherent principled distinction, which aspects of this alleged randomness we think were designed and which weren’t.

    The whole thing smacks of special pleading in an attempt to reconcile the cognitive dissonance of one’s belief in the creator against one’s belief in the idea that no creator is necessary.

    —–

    Or what’s wrong with (c): a purely natural process that realized the creator’s intent because the initial conditions were incredibly fine-tuned by God?

    The main thing wrong with this is that there is no evidence for it. Actually, it is worse. There is significant evidence that such a thing is not possible. Specifically, the formation of information-rich systems is anathema to any law-like process, no matter how finely-tuned.

    Furthermore, the whole point of the debate over OOL and evolution is to explain how life could arise and develop to its current state of diversity and complexity, given the laws of physics and chemistry that operate in the universe.

    Everything we know about physics and chemistry strongly points to the fact that life does not arise and develop to its current state through purely natural laws. Such situation would not just be unlikely; it is directly contrary to our understanding of what it means for natural laws to exist.

    So we are back to dumb luck, sheer chance, as the only possible explanation for our existence.

    And if something was designed, but was designed so remotely as to be indistinguishable from chance, then for all practical intents and purposes, we are dealing with chance. And we have no reason to invoke design to explain it.

    —–

    Again, the real issue here is not that there is any good evidence for proposals that invoke a designer while at the same time invoking a naturalistic mechanism that is explicitly intended to obviate the need for a designer. The real issue is people trying to overcome their cognitive dissonance.

    The potential cure is either:

    (a) Reject design in the history of life; completely, utterly, outright. This is a foolish approach to take from an evidentiary standpoint, but at least it is logically and intellectually coherent.

    (b) Reject the idea that life can arise and develop to its current state of diversity and complexity through purely natural processes. This approach has the benefit of being both logically and intellectually coherent and being in concert with the evidence.

    —–

    Note: It should be clear from the discussion, but in case it is not, let me clarify for the reader that what we are talking about is an invocation of both design and Darwinism with respect to a particular aspect of biology. This is what I am arguing against.

    That design may have been involved with some aspects of biology and not others is a separate question, and one that is perfectly reasonable on the evidence and does not suffer from the cognitive dissonance I am discussing.

  154. 154
    mike1962 says:

    Jerry: Yes, they can. If initial and boundary conditions were set up so that the purposeless and random process could not produce certain results but could produce others, then both could be true. There would definitely be design in this but in the conditions surrounding the purposeless process. So if one examined the process it would appear purposeless and random but in fact was being guided by these exterior conditions which may appear invisible to ordinary investigation.

    This reminds me of a Disneyland ride. They have this ride there where you “drive” gasoline powered cars around a track. The first time I did it I was six years old, a long, long time ago. The steering wheel actually works, so you can steer the car to some degree, but this is limited by the fact that the cars have a mechanism that is attached to the center of the track. This mechanism sets the limits. Nobody is going to be able to drive the car off the track. Randomness within bounds. The track is fixed, and you will always end up at the same place regardless of the micro steering movements of the driver.

    If you were some scientist who was entirely unaware of this Disneyland ride, and you received a file that contained two dimensional set of data points that represented the GPS coordinates of one such run of a given car, to the resolution of, say one inch, and you plotted these data points on a graph, your graph would show very random looking micro movements, with a much smoother macro trend. What could you conclude from the graph? To what degree were the processes that generated the data points purposeful?

    Scientists who proclaim that purposeless, blind watchmaker style evolution has “explained” all we need to know about the development of life on this planet are like scientists with the single data set from a Disneyland car ride. There’s simply no way they can know from the state of the current science to what degree intelligence was required for either the grand macro sweep, or the small micro movements within the sweep, and perhaps mixed processes in between. If someone asserts, “it appears purposeless”, we are entirely free to retort, “so what?” Purpose cannot always be clearly discerned from the data set. Even with such a simple set as a Disneyland ride.

    People need to be taught to see the vacuousness of such assertions.

  155. 155
    buffalo says:

    Has anyone yet explained the chimp foot versus the human foot?

  156. 156
    StephenB says:

    VJ

    What’s wrong with (b)? For instance, some writers have proposed that God could have used quantum mechanics to guarantee the outcome of evolution, making His work appear random, even though it was in fact intentional.

    Eric

    Sure. This is Ken Miller’s approach, for example. Yes, it is indeed possible to purposely design something that does not appear designed.

    Here is what is wrong with (b): Theistic Evolutionists should not be able to use that tactic and get away with it. They have cast their lot with the Darwinists, who claim that evolution *is* random, not *seems* random–the mechanism, *is* unguided, not *seems* unguided. They cannot then suddenly say, "When I say "is," I really mean "seems."

    On the contrary, it is the *is* part that links him to the so-called "science" of evolution and the extravagant claim that naturalistic mechanisms, acting alone and without any guidance whatsoever, *do (not seem to) drive the macroevolutionary process from beginning to end.

    It is the “is” part that prompts them to attack ID, just as it is the “is” part that allows them to join hands with ID’s bureaucratic opponents. For most of them, the “seems” part only comes later when their hypocrisy is stripped bare and they try to escape by having it both ways,

  157. 157
    bill cole says:

    Stephen Eric

    Here is what is wrong with (b): Theistic Evolutionists should not be able to use that tactic and get away with it. They have cast their lot with the Darwinists, who claim that evolution *is* random, not *seems* random–the mechanism, *is* unguided, not *seems* unguided. They cannot then suddenly say, “When I say “is,” I really mean “seems.”

    What I see going on in the evolutionary biology world is many are becoming uncertain of the mechanism but want to hold on to common decent. I see Larry Moran in this category as he believed that Steven Meyer solidly defeated Larry Krauss with his combination lock argument. I think Joshua is consistent with this trend. This common decent without a mechanism is smoke and mirrors IMHO. Common decent implies a natural mechanism. I really think this is a blatant attempt to deceive the public. Joshua’s lack of logic is driven by the pressure to remain inside the scientific consensus which is currently not logical.

  158. 158
    jerry says:

    Origenes, you asked in evolution:

    what is random

    There have been long philosophical discussions on what is random in the past. In evolution it is usually considered mutations. These create variation in offspring. There are lots of types of mutations. Allan MacNeill used to have between 47-50 different types of engines of variation. If someone wants to add something, feel free.

    Other non predictable events may also affect offspring and their survival but the main random process is these sources of new variaton.

    These random events operate within a fairly predictable process, transcription and translation. For the Darwinist all that is needed is “deep time” to lead to some amazing changes. But this random process operating within a guiding process has never shown this but still it is claimed it have happened somehow.

    And it begs the question as to how the guiding process arose. I have never seen a coherent scientific approach by the TE. Their position is as Cornelius Hunter say, religious. Namely, no sensible God would have done it the way it was done. For example, the presence of pseudogenes in latter species. The differences in species by geography. Why didn’t the so called designer get rid of them or why did He create new species in the next island? Hence, the process must have been naturalistic even if we cannot show how it was done because a designer was inept and that is not likely. And that is a religious argument.

    From Wikipedia

    Randomness is the lack of pattern or predictability in events. A random sequence of events, symbols or steps has no order and does not follow an intelligible pattern or combination. Individual random events are by definition unpredictable, but in many cases the frequency of different outcomes over a large number of events (or “trials”) is predictable. For example, when throwing two dice, the outcome of any particular roll is unpredictable, but a sum of 7 will occur twice as often as 4. In this view, randomness is a measure of uncertainty of an outcome, rather than haphazardness, and applies to concepts of chance, probability, and information entropy.

  159. 159
    bornagain77 says:

    buffalo at 155

    “Has anyone yet explained the chimp foot versus the human foot?”

    While they are at it, “Has anyone yet explained the chimp penis versus the human penis?” Man’s sexual reproduction relies on ‘hydraulics’ whereas chimpanzees have an actual bone involved in their reproductive system:

    Ian Juby’s Chimp compared to Man sexual reproduction – video – 6:34 minute mark (plus Can sexual reproduction plausibly evolve in the first place?)
    https://youtu.be/Ab1VWQEnnwM?t=393

    Now That is a dramatic renovation!

  160. 160
    StephenB says:

    Bill Cole

    Joshua’s lack of logic is driven by the pressure to remain inside the scientific consensus which is currently not logical.

    I think you are on to something.

  161. 161
    Eric Anderson says:

    StephenB @156:

    Exactly.

  162. 162
    Eric Anderson says:

    Origines @150:

    What exactly is the random part of evolution? Is only the outcome of random mutations, random? Or are all the aspects of evolution, as they represent themselves to science, random? Are e.g. the building blocks of life, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids and proteins, random? Or are they part of the boundaries and initial conditions? Is Bio-semiosis, as in the production of proteins, random?

    I realize you were talking with jerry, so I apologize for jumping in. As far as the materialistic claims go, we need to be very clear on this point: the whole thing is randomness, from start to finish. The entire materialist creation story is one accidental particle collision (or energetic absorption) after another, from the very first interaction billions of years ago up to the present moment.

    Materialists who realize how absurd their doctrine sounds to rational individuals typically try to reassure themselves and their listeners by throwing in some smoke and mirrors about how “natural selection” or some other vague principle guides evolution or removes the randomness or otherwise “directs” the process toward certain outcomes.

    This is nonsense.

    The whole thing is a crapshoot. A cosmic lottery. Nothing more and nothing less. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong, from a purely logical standpoint. But we need to be clear about what is being claimed.

    Some may think I am being facetious when I write from time to time in these pages the real “explanation” offered by materialist dogma, but I am quite serious. When we get to the bottom of things, when we strip away the fancy biological terminology and the rhetoric, the real explanation offered by the materialist creation myth can be boiled down to two simple words:

    Stuff Happens.

    That’s it. Ultimately there is no more substance to it than that.

  163. 163
    Andre says:

    I am having a hoot reading all this nonsense ……

    I’ve seen people say they use their reason…. What reason? You can’t use reason to deny that reason exist!

    Then I see people leaning on their logic……. What is your logic grounded in? Please do tell?

    Then I see people imposing their subjective moral values on others…… Do they realise that a moral relavist has absolutely nothing to say about the subject?

    Then they use their intentional states (opinions) to make us aware that everything is just material…..

    Then they tell us personal preferences trump the right to life. When you lose the right to life there are no personal preferences…

    It’s a circus out here……

  164. 164
    HeKS says:

    Parts of this conversation and the position taken by Swamidass remind me a lot of a conversation I had here with wd400 back in 2014. To save time, I’m going to quote some of it, because I think it’s quite relevant here:

    wd400: So you do your science (with methodological naturalism) then you draw your conclusions about whatever topic your interested in. So the answer to your Big Philosophical Questions can be informed from the results of science, but they don’t have to inherit the (methodological) naturalism required to do science.

    HeKS: This just seems confused to me.

    If your answers to the Big Philosophical Questions are informed by the results of science, and scientific results are either informed or determined by methodological naturalism, and methodological naturalism is merely the methodological implementation of a philosophical presupposition of naturalism/materialism, then your answers to the Big Philosophical Questions will necessarily be either informed or determined by a philosophical presupposition of naturalism/materialism.

    Your answers to the Big Philosophical Questions are going to inherit philosophical naturalism from the output of methodological naturalism unless you are either going to simply disregard scientific results in answering the Big Questions, or else you are going to hold internally inconsistent beliefs, such that in day-to-day life you believe X, but when considering the Big Questions you believe Not-X

    And:

    HeKS: When people claim that ‘the science is settled’ on some issue, they mean that the conclusion that science has supposedly settled on is true. They don’t just mean it is scientifically true but not really true. When people claim that the science is settled on Evolution, or more specifically Common Descent, they are not trying to say that it is scientifically true but actually might very well be false.

    Now, statements that are thought to be true tend to make their way into philosophical arguments. For example, what if we were to make the following argument:

    1) If life on earth reached its current level of diversity through a completely naturalistic process involving chance and natural law, an intelligent designer is not necessary to explain the diversity of life on earth.

    2) Life on earth reached its current level of diversity through a completely naturalistic process involving chance and natural law.

    3) Therefore, an intelligent designer is not necessary to explain the diversity of life on earth.

    Of course, under normal circumstances premise 2 would be a question open to investigation which could go either way depending on what evidence is found. However, instead of worrying about the evidence, we can simply make another deductive argument in favor of premise 2:

    1) If naturalism is true, life on earth reached its current level of diversity through a completely naturalistic process involving chance and natural law.

    2) One must assume the philosophical position that naturalism is true (Methodological Naturalism).

    3) Therefore, life on earth reached its current level of diversity through a completely naturalistic process involving chance and natural law.

    We have now determined solely through the deduction of logically necessary implications of MN that all life arose through natural processes and we don’t need to look at a single piece of evidence to know this.

    So, here’s the question: Should premise 2, that all life on earth reached its current level of diversity through a completely naturalistic process involving chance and natural law, be considered scientifically true, and therefore settled science, and yet very possibly false?

    The type of distinction you have been trying to make separates scientific truth from actual truth. Under this paradigm, it may well be perverse to question the scientific truth of some proclamation of ‘settled science’, but it would be perfectly reasonable to question the actual truth of the proclamation.

    If scientific truth is potentially different from actual truth, where the former may be nothing more than the logically necessary outcome of mistaken philosophical presuppositions, why should anyone give any credence to proclamations that the just-so stories making up the historical narratives of Evolutionary theory are ‘settled science’, or ‘fact’, or ‘true’?

    And, finally:

    wd400: The science of, to take your example, of universal common descent is settled. Many religous people accept this without a problem.

    HeKS: It doesn’t matter whether many religious people accept it. What matters is whether it truly explains the evidence well when one is not committed to interpreting the evidence through the lens of a particular philosophical presupposition. Universal Common Descent is convincing on naturalism for the simple reason that if naturalism is true, anything other than Universal Common Descent seems virtually impossible to believe. So, no matter how low the prior probability of Universal Common Descent may be on naturalism, anything else would require events that are orders of magnitude more unlikely, if not impossible, on naturalism, and they would simply involve common descent from multiple naturalistic origins of life. But if naturalism is assumed to be true, Universal Common Descent, or something very close to it, is necessarily true regardless of how it fares when compared to the evidence; as are any claims that the mechanism of descent with modification is purely naturalistic, even if we don’t know what naturalistic mechanism might be capable of effecting viable and stable changes at the level of the bodyplan.

    Think about that for a second. People say that when it comes to Universal Common Descent, ‘the science is settled’ (i.e. ‘Science says it’s true’) even though we don’t know how it could actually happen. Not only are we ignorant of how it could happen, in fact, but there are plenty of reasons to think it didn’t happen and couldn’t happen. At least not naturalistically. And yet, ‘the science is settled’, so rational people are supposed to simply accept the historical narrative of Evolutionary theory and overlook its incessant appeals to just-so stories.

    In reality, to say that ‘the science is settled’ on Universal Common Descent is simply to say that, given the artificially imposed philosophical constraints on science, Universal Common Descent has been shown to be the most likely naturalistic explanation by such a large margin that that it can be believed with certainty to be the only naturalistic explanation that makes any sense, even if we don’t know of a naturalistic mechanism that can generate viable and stable heritable changes at the level of the bodyplan.

    I don’t think there’s any statement in that description that even I could disagree with. And yet, I believe that Universal Common Descent is a very poor fit with the evidence when it is viewed as a whole; especially in light of the lack of any viable naturalistic mechanism to allow it to happen. But if naturalism is true, Universal Common Descent, or something very much like it, must be true, regardless of how improbable it is on naturalism.

    And that’s the big problem with Methodological Naturalism: If we observe some effect where the only viable naturalistic theory to explain it is incredibly improbable, that should call the naturalism into serious doubt. However, on MN, we must instead say that the naturalism is known to be true from the outset, and so the only viable naturalistic theory must be correct no matter how improbable.

    Finally, in a response to KF, you said:

    wd400: I care about whether methodological naturalism requires philosophical naturalism, and am yet to see any argument as to why it does…

    This just doesn’t make any sense. Methodological Naturalism just is applied philosophical naturalism. It says, “Assume Philosophical Naturalism when you do science, even if you don’t think Philosophical Naturalism is generally true.” The resulting decrees of ‘science’ will therefore necessarily be determined by philosophical naturalism even when they come from people who don’t think philosophical naturalism is generally true.

    Methodological Naturalism puts an investigative and intellectual block on scientists. And contrary to your claims, its not so much that MN prevents scientists from considering supernatural explanations as it is that it prevents them from considering artificial or teleological explanations. Note, however, that MN is ignored in archaeology, forensics, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, and most other scientific disciplines. Where it is enforced is primarily in Biology, Astronomy and Cosmology. This is not because the methods of design detection employed in other areas of science suddenly become invalid in these fields. Rather, it is because if design detection is permitted in these fields it would have secondary philosophical implications that make many people, particularly committed materialists, very uncomfortable.

    Consider, for a moment, if the methods of design detection that are routinely employed in other areas of science were acknowledged as being genuinely scientific in the field of cosmology, so that now artificial and teleological explanations were allowed in addition to explanation that appeal simply to chance, law or some combination of the two. If that happened, even a number of committed atheist cosmologists would be forced to admit that design was currently the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. But then one would be forced to conclude that that the entire material universe came into existence as the product of design by an agent that existed prior to the origin of matter and space-time. This would seriously call into question the validity of the PR claims of establishment science, which assert that science gives us a way to know the truth about reality where religion only gives us outdated myths. It would be very much like a comment made by Robert Jastrow:

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

    If you think that this dynamic is not a significant consideration in the way the debate has unfolded, you’re not being realistic.

    Swamidass seems to want to argue that the science is settled and conclusive, and it shows us that Universal Common Descent (UCD) is scientifically true. And this is supposed to matter to us. And yet he then turns around and says that the science is probably wrong and it’s quite honorable to just ignore all this apparently conclusive evidence and just believe it’s all misleading and accept on apparently blind faith that UCD is actually false. This seems to fit rather neatly into the contemporary Theistic Evolution movement that prefers a God who leaves no evidence of his existence, entirely removing said existence from the realm of evidence and rational reasoning and thereby protecting it from any possible future falsification as our knowledge expands. I can’t find it in myself to respect this position … or to take seriously the opinion of someone who would advocate a mental life that must be consumed by always making a careful distinction between what is merely ‘scientifically true’ and what is actually true, such that the word “true” loses its essential meaning.

    I generally try very hard to read people I disagree with charitably and to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I found that increasingly hard as I read Swamidass’ posts through this thread. He comes across as being utterly tone-deaf and somehow almost seems to be actively fending off any goodwill or sympathy for his position. In virtually every comment he hit the same four (at least) talking points. He would 1) repeatedly cite himself as an authority, being sure to point out over and over how much of an expert he was, 2) make himself out to be a poor, defenseless victim of everyone who disagreed with him, where it seemed that every disagreement constituted an “attack”, 3) claim to be trying to make peace and find common ground while antagonizing, insulting and condescending to his interlocutors, and 4) misrepresent the arguments and aims of those under the ID umbrella, insulting their intelligence and competence, questioning their honesty, and maligning their motives, telling us they can’t be trusted.

    These are not the tactics of someone looking to make peace. Nor are they tactics that invite sympathy or attempts at consilience.

    Furthermore, Swamidass’ characterization of events leading up to this point comes off as either intentionally dishonest or simply the delusional product of a victim complex. He complains about being mistreated by Hunter and people over at ENV, claiming to have been the subject of attack articles, and he speculates that Hunter and people at the Discovery Institute are probably unhappy about how this all played out, evidently implying that they have come off looking bad and he had come off looking good.

    This is just silly. In reality, multiple people at ENV have spoken positively of the fact that Hunter and Torley are openly disagreeing with each other over this issue and view it as a good thing, and nobody has spoken negatively of it or given any indication at all of being disappointed about how this has played out. And why would they? When it comes to common descent, ID has no dog in the hunt. It doesn’t matter to ID whether common descent is true or false. All that matters is how it would have happened if it turns out that it did happen.

    What’s really happening here is that Swamidass is seeing ‘attacks’ where all that exists is disagreement. Having re-read everything written at ENV about this exchange, I wonder how anyone can take Swamidass seriously. Neither Hunter in his original article nor anyone else at ENV addressed Swamidass in a disrespectful or unprofessional manner, and if he takes offense at was written then the problem lies with him as he is quite obviously being overly sensitive in the extreme. And, frankly, VJTorley bears some responsibility here, in my opinion, as his characterization of Hunter’s initial response and Torley’s somewhat flowery defense of Swamidass comes off as nothing short of mind-boggling. I think it should give people pause to realize that the harshest criticism to be found of Swamidass over at ENV is the most recent article by David Klinghoffer, who actually accepts UCD, or at the very least leans strongly in that direction, blowing up the idea that ID people are inclined to attack and criticize him simply because they have a vested interest in UCD being false. Klinghoffer was so turned off by Swamidass’ tone and approach to this issue, particularly noting his condescension, that it actually caused David to doubt his own acceptance of UCD. This just goes to what I was saying earlier about Swamidass coming across as tone-deaf. His approach, quite predictably, is having precisely the opposite effect he intended. The only mystery in this is how he could possibly think that it might be otherwise.

    I have more to say, but it’s late, so I’ll wait till tomorrow.

    Take care,
    HeKS

  165. 165
    mike1962 says:

    heks,

    Thought-provoking post.

    What’s really happening here is that Swamidass is seeing ‘attacks’ where all that exists is disagreement. Having re-read everything written at ENV about this exchange

    Can you provide a link to this? Thanks.

  166. 166
    Origenes says:

    For theistic evolutionism any lawful process offered by science is compatible with its theology, since the option to posit God as the author of such a lawful process is always available. IOWs naturalism’s ‘guided by physical law’ is compatible with TE’s theology ‘guided by God’s physical law’. Swamidass: “I think that science is incomplete, and we need the theology to complete it.”

    The complementarity of science and theology becomes elusive only when science makes “chance” an essential part of its explanations, as is the case with Darwinian evolution. The problem for TE is that chance (or randomness) is not compatible with the idea that God used evolution with man as the intended result.
    Again, if science were able to show that man is the inevitable result of lawful processes, then the solution for TE would be quite simple: it would posit God as the author of those lawful processes.

    Contrasting lawfulness and randomness in this way will be shown useful later on.

    The problem that randomness poses for TE boils down to this: how can mutations be scientifically random and theologically non-random?
    John Henry Newman does not see the problem:

    I do not [see] that ‘the accidental evolution of organic beings’ is inconsistent with divine design — It is accidental to us, not to God.

    The problem, that Newman does not appreciate, is that if evolution is not accidental to God, then it is not accidental. The idea that there are many truths is incoherent. StephenB puts it eloquently:

    If truth is unified, then science properly applied will reflect the truths of God’s natural revelation, which will be compatible with reason and the Theological truths revealed in Scripture. We know that there is only one truth with many aspects (as opposed to many truths [one truth for theology and another for science etc.] because Logos, the rational principle of the universe, has been revealed to us in Scripture. Thus, if science yields a conclusion (*or a perception*) that militates against reason or a known theological truth, we may safely assume that the perception is wrong and the methodology is flawed. Otherwise, we must reject Logos, which is the very foundation of science.

    In order to circumvent the ‘many truths problem’, Jerry has proposed that fine-tuned boundaries and initial conditions can harness a random process (evolution). He further stipulates that these boundaries and initial conditions are to be independent from the random process. In this view, according to Jerry, evolution can be truly random and, at the same time, be part of a larger system which guarantees a non-random result; namely man.

    There are two problems with this proposal:
    First, returning to my earlier point about lawfulness vs. randomness, evolution cannot be said to be a random process, in the sense that there are many physical laws involved. IOWs randomness can only be part of the evolution process as a whole. As said before, Jerry wants boundaries and initial conditions to be completely separate from a random process (evolution), but evolution does not qualify as such. Boundaries and initial conditions intersect with the evolutionary process.
    Second, and more principally, according to TE, evolution is used by God to produce man. Evolution does the job — it is functional — therefore it cannot be random.

  167. 167
    jerry says:

    I am trying to figure out why the following was written:

    There are two problems with this proposal:
    First, returning to my earlier point about lawfulness vs. randomness, evolution cannot be said to be a random process, in the sense that there are many physical laws involved. IOWs randomness can only be part of the evolution process as a whole. As said before, Jerry wants boundaries and initial conditions to be completely separate from a separate random process (evolution), but evolution does not qualify as such. Boundaries and initial conditions intersect with the evolutionary process.
    Second, and more principally, according to TE, evolution is used by God to produce man. Evolution does the job — it is functional — therefore it cannot be random.

    I am not sure what you are trying to say. But applying your reasoning to the rain examples I gave. In this example, independent elements, rain (random event) and structures in the valleys (boundary conditions) give very different results. Are you saying you cannot separate the two?

    Re-writing your paragraph

    There are two problems with this proposal:
    First, returning to my earlier point about lawfulness vs. randomness, water management cannot be said to be a random process, in the sense that there are many physical laws involved. IOWs randomness can only be part of the water management process as a whole. As said before, Jerry wants boundaries and initial conditions to be completely separate from a separate random process (rain fall), but water management does not qualify as such. Boundaries and initial conditions intersect with the rain fall process.
    Second, and more principally, according to water management people, water management is used by them to produce safe water flows. Water management does the job — it is functional — therefore it cannot be random.

    I never said that evolution is random so why did you write this? And I don’t say that water management is random. Within both processes there are structures to channel the random events that are independent of the random events. Just as the water channeling and dam construction are independent of the rain, so is the transcribing and translating machinery independent of the mutations. Or are you saying this genomic machinery is causing the mutations? (some of the copying errors can be the result of the transcribing and cell duplication process but there is no clear pattern in this so the actual mutation is considered a random event.)

    Now given that, I have never said that the micro evolution that I describe has ever led to anything of consequence in the evolution debate. It does lead to changes in the gene pool which ID has never denied and some of these changes can have substantial effects especially in medicine and health areas. Or are you denying that?

    It sounds like you want to associate me with the reasoning of TE’s when I have been challenging their reasoning for over 10 years on this site. I would guess that I am one of the people that irritated Prof. Swamidass’s by challenging his understanding of ID at several places.

  168. 168
    velikovskys says:

    origenes:
    The problem that randomness poses for TE boils down to this: how can mutations be scientifically random and theologically non-random?

    I guess it depends on the nature of omniscience, whether the knowledge of an omniscient being is scientific, arrived at by deterministic calculation of all factors or if that knowledge merely is part of the nature of omniscient being.
    If that is the case the outcome of a scientific random event is as knowable as a non random event.

    Foreknowledge of free will seems to be analogous.

  169. 169
    Eric Anderson says:

    Origines, jerry:

    Can I ask a clarifying question for my own benefit?

    jerry, with your rain example, you seem to be suggesting that the random event (rain) and the structures in the valley (result) are separate, meaning the results will not necessarily be the same in each case (because the cause is random). In contrast to a law-like process, because the cause is random, there is not a specific, pre-determined result that can come from the random cause. Is that right?

    That makes some sense in that context.

    If we apply that to, say, the origin of man, then we also must say that the result (man) is a random outcome of the random evolutionary process. And given that the outcome is random, rather than built-in by force of law, then we have no reason to think that the result (man) is purposeful or intended, regardless of the initial boundary conditions. Is that a fair conclusion?

    Even Stephen J. Gould was quite clear that, from an evolutionary standpoint, humans are a crapshoot. Rewind the tape of life back to the beginning, he said, and then run it again. It will be a different outcome every time. In the evolutionary paradigm, there is no reason to expect any particular organism to arise or any particular set of biological characteristics to ever come into being. The randomness of the underlying process dictates that there will be a random outcome.

  170. 170
    Eric Anderson says:

    velikovskys @168:

    Your point is well taken as to knowledge of the outcome, but that is not the issue. The issue is sufficient causation.

    In other words, one could argue that an omniscient being might have foreknowledge of the outcome of a random process he put in place, but he would not — by definition — have any control over the process, nor any causal impact on the outcome.

  171. 171
    jerry says:

    Can you provide a link to this? Thanks.

    I found four articles there on Prof. Swamidass

    Here are the links for May articles

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2016/05/

  172. 172
    HeKS says:

    mike1962 @165

    heks,

    Thought-provoking post.

    What’s really happening here is that Swamidass is seeing ‘attacks’ where all that exists is disagreement. Having re-read everything written at ENV about this exchange

    Can you provide a link to this? Thanks.

    Here is everything I could find at ENV about this issue:

    The last artile in the list, about the Wall Street Journal, is from a few years ago so not really relevant.

  173. 173
    Origenes says:

    Jerry: I am not sure what you are trying to say. But applying your reasoning to the rain examples I gave. In this example, independent elements, rain (random event) and structures in the valleys (boundary conditions) give very different results. Are you saying you cannot separate the two?

    Yes, that’s my point, I’m saying that rain is not a 100% random event, in the sense that physical laws are involved. IOWs also here, one cannot separate randomness from lawfulness (boundaries). One cannot break the system down in two separate parts of which one is completely random.

    Jerry: I never said that evolution is random so why did you write this?

    My mistake! Indeed you never did. I’m sorry. I wrongly assumed that in your example ‘rain’ symbolizes ‘evolution’. Also, it want to make clear that it never was my intention to suggest that you are a theistic evolutionist.
    In fact, eight years ago, you have explained that “the structure of the genome” is part of the boundary conditions, which makes the point for me. At least, it seems obvious to me that the structure of the genome (boundary condition) cannot be regarded as being independent or separate from (random) mutations.

  174. 174
    jerry says:

    Eric,

    If we apply that to, say, the origin of man, then we also must say that the result (man) is a random outcome of the random evolutionary process. And given that the outcome is random, rather than built-in by force of law, then we have no reason to think that the result (man) is purposeful or intended, regardless of the initial boundary conditions. Is that a fair conclusion?

    Never said that, never implied that. So it is not a fair conclusion from what I said. For example, is the lake not a specific outcome from the boundary conditions and the random event, rain? It is interesting that anyone would take that away that random events are the result from what I said. What I said is that boundary conditions can turn random events into very specific outcomes.

    My reason for suggesting such a process is that very specific outcomes could be designed this way (the irrigation system and lake are examples). Now, do I believe macro evolution was done this way?

    NO!! NO!! NO!!

    Could God have done macro evoluton this way? My guess is yes. I believe micro evolution happens this way. Could micro evolution be channeled to a specific outcome? Yes, but there is no evidence that it happened this way.

    Can I be an clearer? But I offered it up as a possibility that macro evolution could have happened this way and reject it because the forensic evidence does not support it.

    As far as humans are concerned, I have said several times on this thread and the other thread on Prof. Swamidass that the issue is not in the coding regions but in the control areas and know of no boundary conditions that could have led to those changes in any amount of time.

    I have also offered up a research process several times in the past that would settle this issue once and for all. It is all in the genomes. If micro evolution has led to macro evolution there will millions of examples of it in the various genomes. But since the science crowd is very silent on this obvious support for their position, the odds are very heavily in favor that it does not exist.

  175. 175
    Origenes says:

    Eric Anderson: jerry, with your rain example, you seem to be suggesting that the random event (rain) and the structures in the valley (result) are separate, meaning the results will not necessarily be the same in each case (because the cause is random). In contrast to a law-like process, because the cause is random, there is not a specific, pre-determined result that can come from the random cause. Is that right?

    As I understand Jerry, he argues that the structure of the valley guarantees a specific pre-determined result, despite the randomness of the rain.
    Similarly, given certain boundaries and initial conditions, evolution (despite its random elements) always produces man.
    If Jerry’s proposal is coherent then this is good news for TE. The idea is that science can only see the random part and is correct in pointing out that this is random. However God set the all-decisive non-random boundaries and initial conditions, which are invisible* to science. IOWs science and theology are both right and complementary.

    * Swamidass: “God guides, but science cannot see His guidance.”

  176. 176
    jerry says:

    If Jerry’s proposal is coherent then this is good news for TE.

    Only if it is true. We should be interested in what is true. I maintain that it didn’t happen this way. Why? Because the evidence indicates it didn’t. It would have left a forensic trail for all to see.

    I have offered a way to decide it once and for all.

  177. 177
    velikovskys says:

    Eric:
    In other words, one could argue that an omniscient being might have foreknowledge of the outcome of a random process he put in place, but he would not — by definition — have any control over the process, nor any causal impact on the outcome.

    Could you argue the an omniscient being does not have knowledge of the result of scientific random events?

    Unless the outcome would happen without the process the creator of the process has a causal impact on the outcome.

  178. 178
    velikovskys says:

    Jerry,
    It would have left a forensic trail for all to see.

    What would the forensic trail look like?

    I see in your previous comment, at the genetic level. Nevermind

  179. 179
    bill cole says:

    Has any one thought about the possibility that this whole evolutionary story is just wrong. Kinds are not meant to breed with each other. Is it possible that one kind has never turned into another.

    As I said to Dr Swamidass:

    We could be dealing with billions of origin events

  180. 180
    Eric Anderson says:

    jerry’s example is a general result, not a specific result. A lake, a valley structure — all very vague and general. Biology, in particular the origin of man (which seems to be the point in greatest controversy), is highly specific. As in highly integrated, complex, functional, information-rich specificity.

    General boundaries and initial conditions do not lead to what is relevant for purposes of biology.

    If I have some rain that comes down randomly, can I expect to see lakes form? Sure. Great. But it is “lakes” only in a general sense. And if there is a law-like process, such as gravity, that acts on the random rainfall will it have an impact on the result? Sure. But again, as soon as we move away from a vague description of the situation (a notorious problem for the materialist creation story, by the way), we see that the randomness still holds. How many lakes, where are they, how deep are they, when do they dry up or spill over their banks, and on and on? All determined by the random rain and by force of the landscape that itself was randomly formed. Yes, a natural law like gravity is operational. But it doesn’t remove the randomness.

    Look, I agree with the idea that if there were some natural law that could channel a random process in a particular direction, then the outcome would not necessarily be random, because the natural law would have channeled the process. But there is no rational reason to believe that such a situation is present in biology. Indeed, there is much evidence to believe the contrary.

    I take it jerry also agrees that there is no evidence for such a natural law that could turn a random evolutionary process into a purposeful, directed creative enterprise.

  181. 181
    Eric Anderson says:

    velikovskys @177:

    Could you argue the an omniscient being does not have knowledge of the result of scientific random events?

    Well, then presumably that being would not be omniscient, at least not in an absolute sense. The reason god is generally posited to know the future is because he can “see” the end, is not bound by time, etc., not just because he has really good predictive skills and can anticipate what his analysis tells him is likely to happen. This is of course more a question of theology, though, so I’m not sure how far such a discussion gets us.

    Unless the outcome would happen without the process the creator of the process has a causal impact on the outcome.

    Sure, whatever. If the creator of a process didn’t create the process then the process wouldn’t have been created. That is a given. What we are talking about is what the process can produce, what happens after the process is put in place. Either there is intervention or there isn’t. Either the process runs randomly by itself or it doesn’t. The materialist creation story holds that the process runs by itself, as a matter of definition.

    Some theistic evolutionists seek to honor the materialistic principle as to the process, but then try to get a divine foot back in the door by imagining that either (a) some tweaking is being done behind the scenes, in which case they need to admit that their materialistic process isn’t really a materialistic process, or (b) some undefined, vague, unspecified initial conditions were put in place to make the random nonrandom, the unlikely likely, the uncertain certain.

    This latter proposal, for which there is no evidence and which we have good reason to doubt on other bases, is largely what I have been focusing on.

  182. 182
    Origenes says:

    Jerry,

    Jerry:

    Origenes: If Jerry’s proposal is coherent then this is good news for TE.

    Only if it is true. We should be interested in what is true.

    I agree and I value your effort.

    Jerry: I maintain that it didn’t happen this way. Why? Because the evidence indicates it didn’t. It would have left a forensic trail for all to see.

    An omnipotent God can make any forensic trail invisible.

    An omnipotent God can easily deceive us, but not wrt randomness. That’s why Behe’s trick shot fails as a relevant comparison. If we are deceived by ‘apparent randomness’ then science is simply wrong. Obviously that’s not what TE wants. TE wants true randomness and science to be right about it.

  183. 183
    mike1962 says:

    We cannot the Creator’s hand, but we can see his glove, and the glove is life as we know it. No “forensic trail?” I disagree.

    1. OOL
    2. Coded information
    3. Protein domains
    4. Cambrian explosion
    5. Body plans
    6. Exquisitely complex functional information and systems.
    7. Error correction.

    Etc.

    Could non-telic forces have been responsible for the grand sweep of life as we know it? Hell no. And everybody knows it. The blind watchmaker only wins by default because the rules of the “science” game are setup in advance to guarantee that the “glove” we see doesn’t fit anyone’s “hand.”

    As I read Prof Swamidass’s posts I couldn’t help think “denial denial denial.” He asserts that he knows that God created life, but he wants to still play with the “cool kids” at school, so he contorts his thinking enough to allow a comfortable cognitive dissonance such that he doesn’t get kicked off the football team.

    Others have said it well here: if the truth is that God created life (and that very well may have entailed a high degree of common descent), then by golly he did and the atheist loudmouths in science are DEAD WRONG. Can’t have it both ways.

    Well, we know, and Prof Swamidass himself seems to acknowledge there are large gaping holes in the “scientific” account. We should be grateful for that, I suppose.

    At any rate, I am not a YEC, I largely accept Common Descent, that macro-evolution had a pre-determined trajectory, LUCA was frontloaded with all sort of information and systems, that informational intervention via virii and quantum level input was periodic through-out, that micro-evolution (genetic drift, etc) was utilized to fill niches, and ID is not at all at odds with Common Descent with regard to the actual evidence available. Just-so stories are worthless. I vote. And I approve this message.

  184. 184
    bill cole says:

    mike 1962

    At any rate, I am not a YEC, I largely accept Common Descent, that macro-evolution had a pre-determined trajectory, I am of the opinion that informational intervention via virii and quantum level input was periodic through-out, that micro-evolution (genetic drift, etc) was utilized to fill niches, and ID is not at all at odds with Common Descent with regard to the actual evidence available. Just-so stories are worthless. I vote. And I approve this message.

    I think that there is strong evidence against common decent. The basic design of life is that kinds remain kinds i.e. humans remain humans chimps remain chimps. Every kind has a unique DNA sequence and it reproduces within a constricted range of variation. We may be dealing with billions of origin events.

  185. 185
    StephenB says:

    Jerry

    What I said is that boundary conditions can turn random events into very specific outcomes.

    Forgive me, but that is not what you said. If you had, I would have agreed. What you said was this:

    Yes, they can. If initial and boundary conditions were set up so that the purposeless and random process could not produce certain results but could produce others, then both could be true.

    It is this claim that is logically impossible. Random events within a process are not the same as a random process. If the initial conditions are set up so that the process will produce a specified result, then the process cannot also be random. You can direct random events toward a goal, but not a random process, which by definition, has no goal.

    It is logically impossible for a process to be *open ended*, that is, to be capable of producing many possible outcomes, while at the same time, to be *closed off,” to all unwanted outcomes, that is, to be capable of producing only outcome.

  186. 186
    Origenes says:

    StephenB:

    Jerry: What I said is that boundary conditions can turn random events into very specific outcomes.

    Forgive me, but that is not what you said. If you had, I would have agreed.

    Stephen, do you hold that the following hypothesis is coherent:
    Boundary conditions [which are invisible to science] can turn random events [evolution, as it presents itself to science] into very specific outcomes [human beings]. ?

  187. 187
    velikovskys says:

    Stephen B:
    It is logically impossible for a process to be *open ended*, that is, to be capable of producing many possible outcomes, while at the same time, to be *closed off,” to all unwanted outcomes, that is, to be capable of producing only outcome.

    For non omniscient true,but while the roll of the dice can produce many outcomes but if you know for certain what that outcome is( omniscience) it can only have one.

  188. 188
    HeKS says:

    Continuing from my comment last night, I’d like to address Swamidass’ tree analogy (* Appologies if anyone else has already addressed these issues. I didn’t have a chance to read every comment)

    Here is his analogy in full:

    Let us imagine that God creates a fully grown tree today, and places it in a forest. A week later, a scientist and a theologian encounter this tree. The theologian believes that God is trustworthy and has clearly communicated to him that this tree was created just a week ago. The scientist bores a hole in the tree, and counts its rings. There are 100 rings, so he concludes that the tree is 100 years old. Who is right? In some senses, both the scientist and the theologian are right. God created a one week old tree (the true age) that looks 100 years old (the scientific age). Moreover, it would be absurd for the theologian to deny the 100 rings that the scientist uncovered, or to dispute the scientific age of the tree. Likewise, the scientist cannot really presume to disprove God. Instead, the theologian should wonder why God would not leave clear, indisputable evidence that this 100 year-old tree is just a week old.

    I’d like to focus on a just a couple of the glaring problems here. Let’s begin by considering the first half of this analogy again, because it shows a general problem in Swamidass’ thinking:

    Let us imagine that God creates a fully grown tree today, and places it in a forest. A week later, a scientist and a theologian encounter this tree. The theologian believes that God is trustworthy and has clearly communicated to him that this tree was created just a week ago. The scientist bores a hole in the tree, and counts its rings. There are 100 rings, so he concludes that the tree is 100 years old. Who is right? In some senses, both the scientist and the theologian are right. God created a one week old tree (the true age) that looks 100 years old (the scientific age).

    Swamidass is here using language to warp reality. If God actually created the tree a week ago, then the scientist is not in any sense correct in making the claim that the tree is 100 years old. The only thing that the scientist could be correct about is that the tree has 100 rings. However, the presence of the 100 rings would not in any sense make true the scientist’s claim that the tree itself is 100 years old. The problem in Swamidass’ thinking is made clear in the distinction he makes between “the true age” of the tree and “the scientific age” of the tree. The tree has various properties, including its age and the number of rings it possesses, but “scientific age” is not a real property belonging to the tree. Rather, it is an inference made in the mind of the scientist on the basis of the tree’s actual properties and his beliefs about other processes operating in nature, but the belief about the age of the tree is a property belonging to the scientist, not to the tree. Mistaken beliefs about some object do not magically adhere to the object as quasi-true properties of the object simply because someone happens to have reasons for their mistaken belief. The truth is what it is and everything else is error, even if the error might be based on reasons that make it rationally justifiable.

    This error in thinking on Swamidass’ part seems to underlie his apparent advocacy of religious people uncritically accepting everything that “Science says” as being “scientifically true” even if they think it’s not actually true. Just go along to get along. Why bother challenging the science if you can just safely relegate it to it’s own category of “scientific truth”, which you can then store in the cupboard where there is no chance of it interfering with your faith-based beliefs? I, for one, care about what’s actually true, not only what is “true” according to certain idiosyncratic definitions. I’m sure most here feel the same way.

    But there’s another significant problem with Swamidass’ tree analogy.

    It seems like this should go without saying, but when we make an analogical argument, we need to make sure that it is actually analogous to the relevant realities we seek to draw on for our argument. If, instead, our analogies warp reality so as to make it more amenable to our position, then our analogical arguments cease to be instructive and instead become misleading. And so it is with Swamidass’ 100-year-old tree analogy.

    In this analogy, Swamidass has preemptively resolved all the relevant disputes about Universal Common Descent (UCD) in his favor by likening the debate to a scenario in which all of the observable evidence points unambiguously to a specific scientific conclusion based on what we know about the world, and where the scientist holds his conclusion in the absence of any unexpected or contradictory evidence while his interlocutor holds a contradictory position based purely on divine revelation.

    Does Swamidass really think this scenario represents reality? If so, it seems that his expertise (which he is so fond of citing) has developed inside of a strictly self-affirming bubble, and his opinion with regards to this overall debate is of little value. And, if not, then his method of argumentation must be seen as confused at best and intentionally misleading at worst, which again suggests that his claims with regard to this debate are of little value to anybody interested in the actual truth of the matter.

    UCD is routinely argued against on evidential grounds, not simply on the grounds of conflicting divine revelation. Among other things, people who don’t accept UCD dispute the logical force of the pro-UCD arguments based on similarity, the prevalence of unexpected similarity found in species thought to be only distantly related, the unexpected differences between species thought to be closely related, the need for implausible just-so stories to explain similarity by reference to UCD in cases where severe geographical barriers exists, and the fact that even if UCD could effectively explain the similarities within the biosphere it is lacking any mechanism that has been proved capable of explaining the significant differences.

    In short, reality is far more complicated and messy than Swamidass’ tree analogy suggests. In fact, even that description doesn’t really go far enough in pointing out the problem. It would be more appropriate to say that reality is not just quantitatively different from what Swamidass’ analogy suggests, but it is actually qualitatively different. As an analogical argument it is both unhelpful and highly misleading.

  189. 189
    velikovskys says:

    Eric:
    Sure, whatever. If the creator of a process didn’t create the process then the process wouldn’t have been created. That is a given.

    Ok,but that seems to contradict your early statement about impact

    What we are talking about is what the process can produce, what happens after the process is put in place. Either there is intervention or there isn’t

    Right,

    Either the process runs randomly by itself or it doesn’t

    A process can have a random aspect and run non randomly. Las Vegas makes a lot of money. The key is how the process works . And that does not even require omniscience.

    Some theistic evolutionists seek to honor the materialistic principle as to the process, but then try to get a divine foot back in the door by imagining that either (a) some tweaking is being done behind the scenes, in which case they need to admit that their materialistic process isn’t really a materialistic process

    A purely natural process seems more a correct description of that position.

    , or (b) some undefined, vague, unspecified initial conditions were put in place to make the random nonrandom, the unlikely likely, the uncertain certain.

    Isn’t that the fine tuning argument? Random is non random if you know the outcome. But turn it around, non vaguely what and when and how?

  190. 190
    vjtorley says:

    Hi HeKS,

    Thank you for your post. I’d like to address some points you raised. You wrote:

    Mistaken beliefs about some object do not magically adhere to the object as quasi-true properties of the object simply because someone happens to have reasons for their mistaken belief. The truth is what it is and everything else is error, even if the error might be based on reasons that make it rationally justifiable.

    This error in thinking on Swamidass’ part seems to underlie his apparent advocacy of religious people uncritically accepting everything that “Science says” as being “scientifically true” even if they think it’s not actually true.

    I agree with you that there is only one kind of truth. But even young-earth creationists are prone to speak of objects having an apparent age, which may not be the same as their real age. This apparent age need not be construed as a property accruing to an object, as such. All it denotes is a mere number: the age which a scientific investigation of the object’s past would yield.

    You also wrote:

    Swamidass has preemptively resolved all the relevant disputes about Universal Common Descent (UCD) in his favor by likening the debate to a scenario in which all of the observable evidence points unambiguously to a specific scientific conclusion based on what we know about the world…

    UCD is routinely argued against on evidential grounds, not simply on the grounds of conflicting divine revelation. Among other things, people who don’t accept UCD dispute the logical force of the pro-UCD arguments based on similarity, the prevalence of unexpected similarity found in species thought to be only distantly related, the unexpected differences between species thought to be closely related, the need for implausible just-so stories to explain similarity by reference to UCD in cases where severe geographical barriers exists, and the fact that even if UCD could effectively explain the similarities within the biosphere it is lacking any mechanism that has been proved capable of explaining the significant differences.

    In short, reality is far more complicated and messy than Swamidass’ tree analogy suggests.

    You make a valid point here. Scientific evidence is never totally one-sided. The same goes not only for universal common descent, but also for the age of the earth. I can’t explain why many fossils have anomalously large amounts of carbon-14. Nor can I fully explain pleochroic halos. However, these problems strike me as mere difficulties. They don’t amount to a solid case for a young Earth.

    Likewise, the hypothesis of universal common descent faces problems of its own. You mentioned geographic barriers. You like like to have a look at this article, on monkey ancestors floating on rafts across the sea from South America to North America (a distance of 160 kilometers), some 21 million years ago: http://www.sciencemag.org/news.....th-america

    The explanation sounds rather ad hoc, but it’s still within the realm of the possible: apparently, primates are known for doing this. Likewise, unexpected similarities between species which are thought to be only distantly related (e.g. the wolf and the Thylacine) can be explained either by convergent evolution or by underlying laws of form.

    In short: the problems you raise are difficulties for the hypothesis of universal common descent, but they are by no means insuperable ones.

    Finally, I agree that the lack of a mechanism for macroevolution is a problem for universal common descent. However, I would argue that universal common descent is not a hypothesis about mechanisms as such: it is agnostic as to whether the mechanism is entirely unguided, partly guided or entirely guided. Without a mechanism, universal common descent is not a fully fledged scientific theory, but it is still a hypothesis for which very powerful evidence exists. See the links in Professor Swamidass’s article to Dennis Venema’s online essays on the evidence for UCD.

  191. 191
    vjtorley says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Thank you for your comments. You write:

    Theistic Evolutionists should not be able to use that tactic and get away with it. They have cast their lot with the Darwinists, who claim that evolution *is* random, not *seems* random–the mechanism, *is* unguided, not *seems* unguided. They cannot then suddenly say, “When I say “is,” I really mean “seems.”

    On the contrary, it is the *is* part that links him to the so-called “science” of evolution and the extravagant claim that naturalistic mechanisms, acting alone and without any guidance whatsoever, *do (not seem to) drive the macroevolutionary process from beginning to end…

    If the initial conditions are set up so that the process will produce a specified result, then the process cannot also be random. You can direct random events toward a goal, but not a random process, which by definition, has no goal.

    I don’t think that true randomness is an essential part of the scientific theory of evolution, if only because when it was proposed by Darwin in 1859, nobody believed in that idea, anyway. Most scientists (including Darwin) accepted the idea of determinism back then.

    I understand that Asa Gray, who was a Calvinist, construed Darwin’s theory in a deterministic sense.

    All an evolutionist need maintain is that evolutionary changes (mutations) have no built-in bias in favor of beneficial outcomes. Consequently, if evolution were designed to produce us, as theistic evolutionists claim, then it could only have been by God rigging the initial conditions.

  192. 192
    Mung says:

    Consequently, if evolution were designed to produce us, as theistic evolutionists claim, then it could only have been by God rigging the initial conditions.

    So God builds the clock, winds it up, and from then on it operates on it’s own, independent of God.

  193. 193
    Mung says:

    God didn’t just create the world, he also sustains the world. If God grants being to and sustains every sub-atomic particle as long as it has being, in what sense is any sub-atomic particle autonomous?

    Does God create the particle, set it in motion, and from then on it’s on it’s own?

  194. 194
    StephenB says:

    Hi VJ,

    Thanks for commenting.

    Your write,

    I don’t think that true randomness is an essential part of the scientific theory of evolution, if only because when it was proposed by Darwin in 1859, nobody believed in that idea, anyway. Most scientists (including Darwin) accepted the idea of determinism back then.

    Perhaps. However, I am referring to the science of evolution as today’s evolutionary biologists present it and as Theistic Evolutionists accept it. I present the following brief example:

    –“39 Nobel Laureates wrote the Kansas State Board of Education to inform them that ‘evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection’”

    Most biology textbooks seem to interpret Neo-Darwinism the same way–a purposeless, unguided process, the outcome of which is indeterminate. Chance, randomness (ontological, not epistemological), and unpredictability seem to rule the day.

    All an evolutionist need maintain is that evolutionary changes (mutations) have no built-in bias in favor of beneficial outcomes. Consequently, if evolution were designed to produce us, as theistic evolutionists claim, then it could only have been by God rigging the initial conditions.

    If God rigged the initial conditions such that evolution would produce us, it can only mean that God designed evolution through those means. Thus, the only reasonable option for TEs is to acknowledge that God did, indeed, design evolution and stop catering to the NeoDarwinists by saying that God designed it without designing it. In other words, Theistic Evolutionists should stop being Theistic Evolutionists.

  195. 195
    StephenB says:

    SB: “It is logically impossible for a process to be *open ended*, that is, to be capable of producing many possible outcomes, while at the same time, to be *closed off,” to all unwanted outcomes, that is, to be capable of producing only outcome.”

    velikovskys

    For non omniscient true,but while the roll of the dice can produce many outcomes but if you know for certain what that outcome is( omniscience) it can only have one.

    What may happen is not a question of what God knows. It is a question of what He has done to make it happen. His omniscience is irrelevant to the effects of his actions. If God designed evolution to produce homo-sapiens, then it also means that he did not roll the dice.

  196. 196
    StephenB says:

    Origenes

    Stephen, do you hold that the following hypothesis is coherent:

    Boundary conditions [which are invisible to science] can turn random events [evolution, as it presents itself to science] into very specific outcomes [human beings]. ?

    I would have to say no. Darwinists present evolution as a purposeless, random process, not simply as a series of random events. If initial boundary conditions are set up to serve some purpose, then purposeless evolution would not seem to be a logical candidate for that role.

  197. 197
    HeKS says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    Thanks for your reply. Here are a few comments in return.

    I agree with you that there is only one kind of truth. But even young-earth creationists are prone to speak of objects having an apparent age, which may not be the same as their real age. This apparent age need not be construed as a property accruing to an object, as such. All it denotes is a mere number: the age which a scientific investigation of the object’s past would yield.

    I don’t think we really disagree here. I considered more explicitly addressing the YEC perspective of “appearance of age” but figured it was implicitly addressed in what I said. Basically, as you seem to acknowledge, the conclusion that some object has an “appearance of age” is a belief belonging to a person according to some specific interpretive framework. It is not actually a property of the object that the person happens to believe has an appearance of age. As for the tree in Swamidass’ analogy, it has the number of rings that it has (100) and it has the age that it has (1 week). Any “appearance of age” exists in the mind of a person who believes those two properties (rings and age) to be inextricably linked in association with the normal progression of certain natural processes.

    Also, I don’t mean to be pedantic here, but in light of the context of this discussion I feel like I need to take issue with the wording of the following statement:

    This apparent age need not be construed as a property accruing to an object, as such. All it denotes is a mere number: the age which a scientific investigation of the object’s past would yield.

    This wording does not accurately convey the fact that such a scientifically determined “age” would be utterly determined by external assumptions and would not actually be an age at all, but would merely be an incorrect inference in the minds of the investigators that there exists an “appearance of age”, which perception would be entirely based on the mistaken belief that there existed a necessary connection between the tree’s rings and particular natural processes. Furthermore, any scientific investigation of the object would not be an investigation “of the object’s past“, per se, because the existence of any such past is precisely what would be mistakenly inferred on the basis of the rings, when the rings would actually be completely unrelated to the tree’s past in any scientifically relevant sense … unless by “past” we simply mean the very moment of its creation a week ago (after all, in this analogy, the rings existed from the moment of creation and did not just quickly form over the first week).

    Again, I’m not just trying to be argumentative or nitpick here. I’m just trying to draw attention to how significant of a role an interpretive framework plays in coming to conclusions. When it comes to scientifically dating a tree, the logic of the dating does not end at simply observing how many rings are present. Rather, the conclusion derived from observing the number of rings is based on the underlying assumption of an extricable connection between the rings and certain natural growth processes relative to environmental changes. It even makes assumptions about what those environmental/weather changes happened to be so as to exclude the possibility of multiple rings forming per year, and for the purposes of the analogy we might be forced to assume we’re dealing with a tree that falls into a specific subset of species that are not prone to missing rings. So there is a network of assumptions joined to an interpretive framework that is required before we can have any rational justification for saying, “That tree has 100 rings, therefore it appears to be 100 years old.”

    As a side point, I just want to make clear that I’m not a YEC.

    Likewise, the hypothesis of universal common descent faces problems of its own. You mentioned geographic barriers. You like like to have a look at this article, on monkey ancestors floating on rafts across the sea from South America to North America (a distance of 160 kilometers), some 21 million years ago: http://www.sciencemag.org/news…..th-america

    The explanation sounds rather ad hoc, but it’s still within the realm of the possible: apparently, primates are known for doing this. Likewise, unexpected similarities between species which are thought to be only distantly related (e.g. the wolf and the Thylacine) can be explained either by convergent evolution or by underlying laws of form.

    In short: the problems you raise are difficulties for the hypothesis of universal common descent, but they are by no means insuperable ones.

    Whether or not the problems are insuperable can remain an open question, but I think you are kind of highlighting the problem here that arises from not sufficiently recognizing the role that a predetermined interpretive framework is playing when it comes to the evidence that is relevant to this issue.

    Let’s take the floating monkeys as an example. You say that the hypothesis that monkeys floated on rafts across 160 KMs of water sounds ad hoc, but it is possible, and primates are apparently known for doing this.

    First of all, mere possibility is an incredibly low bar for an explanation or hypothesis. Also, what kind of possibility are we talking about here? Is it merely logically possible or is it also physically possible? Monkey’s have a fast metabolism and would seemingly require plenty of food and water to survive the trip, even if we allow that a directionless floating pile of debris that is not being steered by anyone who knows where they are going would ever actually wash up on the appropriate shore. So whether this explanation is physically possible under real-world conditions is at least an open question. But even if we allow that it is physically possible, what we really need to ask is whether it’s plausible or probable. And yet, there is a major problem in the way these questions are ultimately decided.

    Let’s look at the article you linked to for a second. Consider this statement:

    The seven fossil teeth, described online today in Nature, represent the earliest evidence for mammals moving from South America to North America

    Do you see any issue with this statement? It seems rather problematic to me, in that it only constitutes significant evidence of such a move over a large body of water at a time when no land bridge existed if we assume that Common Ancestry is true. When we do, the rather unexpected find ceases to even be a “difficulty” for Common Ancestry to explain. Instead – and quite remarkably – the whole situation gets reversed so that the assumed truth of Common Ancestry actually constitutes evidence that monkeys made an incredible over-sea voyage on mats of dirt.

    This has become routine, and those making the arguments seem to completely miss the fact that they’re employing backwards logic. According to the normal flow of reasoning, if an unproven proposition requires numerous events to have happened that are highly implausible given its own background conditions, the probability of the initial proposition should be reduced. And yet, when it comes to UCD, the situation is reversed, and instead of the probability of UCD being considered to be reduced, the probability of the highly implausible events is actually considered to be increased, and not just increased, but often raised to a virtual certainty.

    Now, with respect to these sea-faring monkeys, you say that “apparently, primates are known for doing this.” The article makes the same claim:

    Bloch proposes that they floated to Panama from South America on mats of dirt and vegetation. “Primates are known for doing this,” agrees Lauren Gonzales, a primate paleontologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who wasn’t involved in the study.

    That’s an interesting assertion, but on what basis are we to accept that primates are known for doing something like accidentally floating across a huge body of water on mats of dirt in sufficient numbers to start a viable population in a new location, and presumably planning for that trip by bringing along food and drinkable water? Fortunately, the article answers that question for us in the next sentence:

    In fact, scientists think primates first traveled from Africa to South America 40 million years ago by floating across the Atlantic on the same kinds of mats.

    Indeed, primates are “known” for doing this sort of thing because it is believed that they did such a thing before in crossing that Atlantic from Africa to South America. And why do they believe this? Because the evidence that is used to infer common ancestry dictates that the South American and African monkeys must have been closely related and this necessitates the conclusion that a group of African monkeys large enough to start a viable new population got themselves onto some debris, along with a few weeks’ worth of food and fresh water, and floated across the Atlantic to end up in South America. Of course, under normal circumstances, one would consider the need for about two dozen such transoceanic migrations of different types of animals to strongly count against the probability of UCD being true, but when we’re dealing with UCD we’re not dealing with normal circumstances. Instead, UCD makes the ocean-crossing monkeys (and all the other animals) a necessity, which therefore necessarily makes it true, and so who could take exception to waving away the implausibility of monkeys floating from South to North America by pointing out that ‘primates are known for this sort of thing’ … like when they apparently made the even more difficult trip in floating from Africa to South America.

    UCD is currently in a place where the possible existence of insuperable problems is all but ruled out in principle. When an hypothesis not only fails to be disconfirmed by the requirement for numerous highly implausible events (which may even be physically impossible under real-world conditions) but actually converts those events from being highly implausible to being essentially certain, evidence stops playing any serious or integral role in the conversation. Instead, what we get are claims of certainty that pay lip-serive to “evidence”, which is really just the results of certain interpretive frameworks converting any and all raw-data inputs to predictable outputs.

    As for the powerful evidence for UCD, I haven’t had a chance to peruse Venema’s essays in particular, but I’ve heard many arguments and examples from many sources over the course of several years. In reality, I’m less interested in the specific examples because they are basically all instantiations of a few types of basic arguments, and so I’m more interested in the underlying logic of the argument types. As a programmer (among other things) I find the logic and underlying assumptions highly underwhelming and sometimes verging on absurd. I’m considering writing an article in the near future that deals with the logic of arguments for UCD and Junk DNA in light of programming practices and design patterns, but I’m not sure yet when I’ll have time and I’ll likely be writing it jointly with a friend who works with different programming languages and environments, which will help to give a more rounded consideration of the issues, so I’ll have to coordinate with him based on his availability as well.

  198. 198
    bill cole says:

    VJT

    Finally, I agree that the lack of a mechanism for macroevolution is a problem for universal common descent. However, I would argue that universal common descent is not a hypothesis about mechanisms as such: it is agnostic as to whether the mechanism is entirely unguided, partly guided or entirely guided. Without a mechanism, universal common descent is not a fully fledged scientific theory, but it is still a hypothesis for which very powerful evidence exists. See the links in Professor Swamidass’s article to Dennis Venema’s online essays on the evidence for UCD.

    To be a hypothesis don’t you need testability? I agree that it is an inference based on historical evidence but how would you propose we test the hypothesis of animal A turning into animal B?

    There is evidence of common biochemistry but saying an isolated population caused organism A to organism B. This requires a big change to the genome which by all observation looks intentional. In addition genomes of kinds lack variation and we have no evidence of this change. Kinds remain kinds by our observation and this is a basic design of animal biochemistry.

  199. 199
    Eric Anderson says:

    velykovskys @187:

    For non omniscient true,but while the roll of the dice can produce many outcomes but if you know for certain what that outcome is( omniscience) it can only have one.

    Nope. Your conflating knowledge with causation. Very different issues.

  200. 200
    Origenes says:

    Dennis Venema — BioLogos

    — Is evolution “random”? —

    One of the primary concerns about evolution that I encounter is the question of “randomness” – by which most folks mean something to the effect that evolution is an unpredictable, uncontrolled process – that as such could not be used by God as a purposeful mechanism to bring about his aims. There are, of course, usually some scientific misunderstandings lurking under the question. As we have seen, while evolution has some stochastic, contingent features (such as mutation), evolution as a whole is not a “random” process in the sense usually intended by concerned Christians. Even with its stochastic features, it also exhibits at least a degree of repeatability, as we have seen in recent posts on convergence. While the contingency of evolution may move a Stephen J. Gould to see purposeless, the convergence of evolution may also move a Simon Conway Morris to see an elegant, purposeful mechanism.
    ….
    The question then remains, of course, whether what we perceive as “random chance” – the mutations of evolution or the shuffling and mutations of antibody formation – are in fact “random” to God. Does God foreordain every mutation in the immune system? Every mutation along the way as our own species became human? The conversation in the church foyer usually wends its way through this issue sooner or later. Some believers hold strongly that nothing is random (in the sense of being unknown or unpredictable by God). Others take a different view – that God’s sovereignty is not accomplished through rigid determinism, but rather that God permits creation a measure of freedom, within set boundaries, to act in stochastic ways that nonetheless accomplish his overall purpose.

  201. 201
    velikovskys says:

    Stephen:
    What may happen is not a question of what God knows.

    For an omniscient God there is no “may” about it.

    It is a question of what He has done to make it happen

    He created all that is, He is the cause of everything.

    His omniscience is irrelevant to the effects of his actions

    Knowing the outcome of your creation is irrelevant to the choice of what to create?

    If God designed evolution to produce homo-sapiens, then it also means that he did not roll the dice.

    True from the viewpoint of the omniscient.However for the non omniscient the dice are rolled.. I think the difference is that an omniscient being knows things in a different way than an non omniscient knows things.

    For the omniscient random processes outcomes are known, just as non random processes outcomes are known. Scientific randomness is just as predictable as non randomness.

  202. 202
    Eric Anderson says:

    HeKS:

    Some excellent comments in your multiple posts about methodological naturalism, truth, and so on. Well said.

    —–

    Also,

    As a programmer (among other things) I find the logic and underlying assumptions highly underwhelming and sometimes verging on absurd. I’m considering writing an article in the near future that deals with the logic of arguments for UCD and Junk DNA in light of programming practices and design patterns, but I’m not sure yet when I’ll have time and I’ll likely be writing it jointly with a friend who works with different programming languages and environments, which will help to give a more rounded consideration of the issues, so I’ll have to coordinate with him based on his availability as well.

    This would be excellent to see. Especially since the essential Neo-Darwinian claim is that by making random changes to a computer code we can produce wonderful new biological features and even new organisms.* Actually, it is slightly more nuanced and worse than that. The proposal is that by making random changes to a portion of the code found in the cell — essentially the database — the whole system can be radically reconfigured, including the hardware.

    —–

    * Why this approach isn’t widely used in the computer industry is unclear, given that this process has allegedly produced far more capable and sophisticated results than the millions of engineers currently employed in the industry.

  203. 203
    velikovskys says:

    Eric:
    Nope. Your conflating knowledge with causation. Very different issues.

    Not exactly, I am saying that while there may be random processes for the non omniscient because of the unpredictability, all processes random or not are equally predictable to the omniscient. So randomness of some aspects of evolution is a red herring. Non random processes are subject to the same criticism.

  204. 204
    Eric Anderson says:

    A couple of people keep grasping at this idea that evolution could proceed toward a purposeful end if the creator had set up certain initial boundary conditions. But I’ve not seen anyone, including in all the quotes about this wonderful possibility, give a solid example of what they are talking about. So far it is all vague, undefined, handwaving.

    Can someone — anyone — give me a couple of examples of initial boundary conditions that could be set up to cause evolution to proceed toward what we find in biology today?

    To be clear, this is not talking about regular creative intervention along the way via quantum fluctuations and such — that is a separate proposal.

    What possible initial boundary conditions could cause an otherwise random evolutionary process to produce a non-random, pre-determined, purposeful outcome — say, human beings?

  205. 205
    Eric Anderson says:

    velikovskys:

    What you are claiming is that the process somehow changes from random to non-random solely because someone knows the outcome. That simply doesn’t follow. Knowledge of an event, by definition, does not cause the event. Worse, under your scenario everything in the whole universe, including our choices and actions and ultimate ends, are pre-determined because, hey, God knows them. It doesn’t make any sense: logically, practically, or theologically. It isn’t any better than atheistic, materialistic determinism.

    An alternative approach might be to propose that an omniscient creator could set up a random process over and over, ad infinitum, until the desired outcome is achieved, maybe by physically instantiating each instance or (given the tremendous intellect) running it through in his mind. Yet, this is little different from the multiverse idea: give it an infinite number of tries and anything can happen.

    Finally, if you are proposing that the random evolutionary process is non-random because someone knows about the outcome, then you are really saying that the process is not random, as understood by evolutionary scientists. Indeed, you are saying that the outcome is pre-determined by some law-like process. Fine. So you are not proposing evolution as normally understood. Let’s be clear about that up front. Furthermore, that brings us back to my specific question @204. What are these law-like processes, these initial boundary conditions, that could drive evolution toward a non-random, pre-determined, purposeful outcome?

  206. 206
    Eric Anderson says:

    Again, the only reason this whole idea of non-random randomness and of purposeful pre-determined evolution is coming up is because some people have been hoodwinked into thinking that the materialistic storyline is true about random particle collisions creating life and producing wonderful biological diversity and complexity.

    So if someone adopts that false understanding and at the same time also holds to the idea of a creator, then some remarkable mental gymnastics are required to resolve the cognitive dissonance and make the creator’s influence fit within the materialist doctrine of a no-creators-allowed blind, purposeless, unguided process.

  207. 207
    StephenB says:

    SB: God’s omniscience is irrelevant to the effects of his actions

    velikovskys

    Knowing the outcome of your creation is irrelevant to the choice of what to create?

    I think you will understand better if you don’t revise what I say and then respond to your revision.

  208. 208
    Phinehas says:

    HeKS:

    Indeed, primates are “known” for doing this sort of thing because it is believed that they did such a thing before in crossing that Atlantic from Africa to South America. And why do they believe this? Because the evidence that is used to infer common ancestry dictates that the South American and African monkeys must have been closely related and this necessitates the conclusion that a group of African monkeys large enough to start a viable new population got themselves onto some debris, along with a few weeks’ worth of food and fresh water, and floated across the Atlantic to end up in South America. Of course, under normal circumstances, one would consider the need for about two dozen such transoceanic migrations of different types of animals to strongly count against the probability of UCD being true, but when we’re dealing with UCD we’re not dealing with normal circumstances. Instead, UCD makes the ocean-crossing monkeys (and all the other animals) a necessity, which therefore necessarily makes it true, and so who could take exception to waving away the implausibility of monkeys floating from South to North America by pointing out that ‘primates are known for this sort of thing’ … like when they apparently made the even more difficult trip in floating from Africa to South America.

    UCD is currently in a place where the possible existence of insuperable problems is all but ruled out in principle. When an hypothesis not only fails to be disconfirmed by the requirement for numerous highly implausible events (which may even be physically impossible under real-world conditions) but actually converts those events from being highly implausible to being essentially certain, evidence stops playing any serious or integral role in the conversation. Instead, what we get are claims of certainty that pay lip-serive to “evidence”, which is really just the results of certain interpretive frameworks converting any and all raw-data inputs to predictable outputs.

    This. So very much this. Thank you for this masterful and incisive examination of the very real issues with interpreting evidence through a rigid, uncritical framework that is itself impervious to evidence. Such a framework becomes a factory of predictable conclusions, leading inevitably to so many of the claims of consensus science as well as explaining the consensus in the first place.

    As for the powerful evidence for UCD, I haven’t had a chance to peruse Venema’s essays in particular, but I’ve heard many arguments and examples from many sources over the course of several years. In reality, I’m less interested in the specific examples because they are basically all instantiations of a few types of basic arguments, and so I’m more interested in the underlying logic of the argument types. As a programmer (among other things) I find the logic and underlying assumptions highly underwhelming and sometimes verging on absurd. I’m considering writing an article in the near future that deals with the logic of arguments for UCD and Junk DNA in light of programming practices and design patterns, but I’m not sure yet when I’ll have time and I’ll likely be writing it jointly with a friend who works with different programming languages and environments, which will help to give a more rounded consideration of the issues, so I’ll have to coordinate with him based on his availability as well.

    Please do write this article in the very near future. In the meantime, if you could provide me with a link to everything you’ve ever written on any subject, anywhere, ever, I may just manage to distract myself from the wait. 🙂

  209. 209
    Andre says:

    Plus even Jerry Coyne admitted there are no ring species.

  210. 210
    Origenes says:

  211. 211
    buffalo says:

    Once again it all boils down to these two questions:

    Did God know what Adam would look like?

    Did Adam look as God planned?

    ————
    Consider:

    What is IDvolution?
    IDvolution – God “breathed” the super language of DNA into the “kinds” in the creative act.

    This accounts for the diversity of life we see. The core makeup shared by all living things have the necessary complex information built in that facilitates rapid and responsive adaptation of features and variation while being able to preserve the “kind” that they began as. Life has been created with the creativity built in ready to respond to triggering events.
    Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on Earth have the same core, it is virtually certain that living organisms have been thought of AT ONCE by the One and the same Creator endowed with the super language we know as DNA that switched on the formation of the various kinds, the cattle, the swimming creatures, the flying creatures, etc.. in a pristine harmonious state and superb adaptability and responsiveness to their environment for the purpose of populating the earth that became subject to the ravages of corruption by the sin of one man (deleterious mutations).
    IDvolution considers the latest science and is consistent with the continuous teaching of the Church. http://idvolution.blogspot.com.....ution.html

  212. 212
    HeKS says:

    Hi Phinehas,

    Thanks for the very kind comments.

    Please do write this article in the very near future. In the meantime, if you could provide me with a link to everything you’ve ever written on any subject, anywhere, ever, I may just manage to distract myself from the wait.

    Well, I don’t think you’d want to real all of what I’ve written, as a significant portion would consist of technical and procedural manuals for the Canadian government, but it actually probably wouldn’t be too hard to link you to just about everything else for you to pick and choose what you might be interested in, since the vast majority of what I’ve written can be found on just a few sites. If you’re actually interested in perusing, drop me a line at heks underscore at hotmail dot com.

    Take care,
    HeKS

  213. 213
    velikovskys says:

    Eric:
    A couple of people keep grasping at this idea that evolution could proceed toward a purposeful end if the creator had set up certain initial boundary conditions. But I’ve not seen anyone, including in all the quotes about this wonderful possibility, give a solid example of what they are talking about. So far it is all vague, undefined, handwaving.

    Whereas vague divine intervention is well defined?

    Stephen:
    I think you will understand better if you don’t revise what I say and then respond to your revision.

    Fair enough, how is does my paraphrase differ from your intent? How is omniscience irrelevant to the effects of God’s actions? Certainly in humans knowledge is relevant to achieving the desired effects as is the ability to use that knowledge.

  214. 214
    Origenes says:

    VJTorley: I don’t think that true randomness is an essential part of the scientific theory of evolution, (…)

    Ernst Mayr confirms that, wrt evolution, “random” means something else than “true randomness”:

    “When it is said that mutation or variation is random, the statement simply means that there is no correlation between the production of new genotypes and the adaptational needs of an organism in the given environment” [Mayr 1998, 98]

    If true randomness is out, then evolution can be viewed upon as a deterministic process which is compatible with theology.

    Plantinga — Stanford website: If so, evolution, as currently stated and currently understood, is perfectly compatible with God’s orchestrating and overseeing the whole process; indeed, it is perfectly compatible with that theory that God causes the random genetic mutations that are winnowed by natural selection. Those who claim that evolution shows that humankind and other living things have not been designed, so say their opponents, confuse a naturalistic gloss on the scientific theory with the theory itself. The claim that evolution demonstrates that human beings and other living creatures have not, contrary to appearances, been designed, is not part of or a consequence of the scientific theory, but a metaphysical or theological add-on (van Inwagen 2003).

    Conclusion:

    Since deterministic evolution is compatible with theology and true randomness is no essential part of the scientific theory of evolution, my conclusion is that theistic evolution is coherent.

  215. 215
    velikovskys says:

    Eric:
    What you are claiming is that the process somehow changes from random to non-random solely because someone knows the outcome.

    When you know the outcome of a process it is non random , a causes b. For a omniscient being all outcomes are known

    That simply doesn’t follow. Knowledge of an event, by definition, does not cause the event.

    Randomness is a description of the event, not a cause. But no TE is claiming that God does not cause the laws of nature. My point again is that randomness is unpredictable, nothing is unpredictable for omniscience. If evolution is a problem because of the stochastic nature of some of its mechanisms then all natural causation is a problem.

    Worse, under your scenario everything in the whole universe, including our choices and actions and ultimate ends, are pre-determined because, hey, God knows them.

    The standard theistic rebuttal to that claim is preknowledge is not causation,do you think God does not know those things?

    It doesn’t make any sense: logically, practically, or theologically. It isn’t any better than atheistic, materialistic determinism.

    Just the opposite, I believe an omnipotent,omniscient God can create anything He desires thru whatever means He chooses unless it is logically impossible. Your claim seems to be that He can’t.

  216. 216
    StephenB says:

    Origenes

    Plantinga — Stanford website: If so, evolution, as currently stated and currently understood, is perfectly compatible with God’s orchestrating and overseeing the whole process; indeed, it is perfectly compatible with that theory that God causes the random genetic mutations that are winnowed by natural selection. Those who claim that evolution shows that humankind and other living things have not been designed, so say their opponents, confuse a naturalistic gloss on the scientific theory with the theory itself. The claim that evolution demonstrates that human beings and other living creatures have not, contrary to appearances, been designed, is not part of or a consequence of the scientific theory, but a metaphysical or theological add-on (van Inwagen 2003).

    It is not an “add on.” It is inherent in the theory. May I humbly suggest that you read “God and Evolution” by Jay Richards. Also, if you are open to it, read the ongoing exchange between Jay Richards and Alvin Plantinga. (I don’t know exactly where it is, but it can be found on the internet) In my judgment, the former takes the latter’s arguments apart.

    Conclusion:

    Since deterministic evolution is compatible with theology and true randomness is no essential part of the scientific theory of evolution, my conclusion is that theistic evolution is coherent.

    Deterministic evolution would be compatible with theism, however that is not what is being taught in biology textbooks, nor it is view of most of the heavy hitters.

    “39 Nobel Laureates wrote the Kansas State Board of Education to inform them that “evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.”

    Obviously, a God-planned evolution that is directed to a specific end cannot be compatible with an unplanned, unguided explanation that has no end in mind.

    I would also point out that the Stanford Encyclopedia is anti-ID. Naturally, they chose to include Plantinga and omit Richards. That is also why Darwinists love to recruit naive, but influential, clergymen in their ranks.

    “One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists at a school board meeting any day.” –Eugenie Scott.

    God and evolution should be required reading for all ID proponents.

  217. 217
    velikovskys says:

    Eric:
    Finally, if you are proposing that the random evolutionary process is non-random because someone knows about the outcome then you are really saying that the process is not random, as understood by evolutionary scientists.

    No I am no saying that, but it is true that scientists could be incorrect. All scientific knowledge is provisional. What I am saying is God’s knowledge does not require determinism, it just is. Scientifically random, theologically not.

    Indeed, you are saying that the outcome is pre-determined by some law-like process.

    Omniscience does not require a law like process to have knowledge of the outcome,it is illogical that an omniscient God can create something beyond His knowledge, by definition He knows everything. By saying His knowledge requires law like regularities restricts from all things to some things.

    Fine. So you are not proposing evolution as normally understood. Let’s be clear about that up front.

    Everything that applies to God does not apply to humans.

    Furthermore, that brings us back to my specific question @204. What are these law-like processes, these initial boundary conditions, that could drive evolution toward a non-random, pre-determined, purposeful outcome?

    For a TE those that existed that were created by God.but since human knowledge is limited that is what the scientific process is all about, increasing our knowledge.

    But go ahead, how do you think God created His purpose specifically, and thru what means did you arrive at this knowledge since scientific knowledge is suspect?

  218. 218
    Andere Stimme says:

    @217

    This is getting way off topic, but I’m intrigued by this statement:

    “Omniscience does not require a law like process to have knowledge of the outcome,it is illogical that an omniscient God can create something beyond His knowledge, by definition He knows everything.”

    Does anyone else see a conflict between the free will of the created and the omniscience of the Creator?

  219. 219
    Eric Anderson says:

    velikovskys:

    Just the opposite, I believe an omnipotent,omniscient God can create anything He desires thru whatever means He chooses unless it is logically impossible. Your claim seems to be that He can’t.

    Having a process that is both random and non-random is logically impossible. The process cannot be both A and Not-A. That doesn’t work, even for your omniscient, omnipotent God.

    Look, let’s cut to the chase:

    Do you believe that particles randomly bumped into each other and formed the first life form? Do you further believe that random mutations caused that life to develop to the current state of diversity and complexity that we see around us?

    If so, then you are a materialist and there is no need for a creator in your creation story. If not, then you are not a materialist and you might as well admit as much to yourself and to your colleagues and friends who keep pushing a materialist creation story.

  220. 220
    Eric Anderson says:

    Andere Stimme @218:

    The problem is that velikovskys would like to have a process that is purely naturalistic and at the same time is guided and directed, meaning it is not purely naturalistic. This is the original source of the cognitive dissonance.

    He is also conflating knowledge and causation, and is failing to see the distinction between (a) creating a process and letting it run naturally, and (b) directing the outcome of the process.

    Your point about free will is also well taken. See #181 and 205.

  221. 221
    Eric Anderson says:

    Again I ask, can someone — anyone — tell me what these alleged initial boundary conditions are that would turn a random evolutionary process into a non-random, guided, purposeful process?

  222. 222
    HeKS says:

    Origenes @214

    Hi Origenes,

    I just want to comment on the following issue from your post:

    VJTorley: I don’t think that true randomness is an essential part of the scientific theory of evolution, (…)

    Ernst Mayr confirms that, wrt evolution, “random” means something else than “true randomness”:

    “When it is said that mutation or variation is random, the statement simply means that there is no correlation between the production of new genotypes and the adaptational needs of an organism in the given environment” [Mayr 1998, 98]

    If true randomness is out, then evolution can be viewed upon as a deterministic process which is compatible with theology.

    There’s a bit of a problem here. Actually, more than a bit, in my opinion.

    This idea that calling mutations “random” only means that they aren’t correlated to an organism’s environmental needs and that the designation, therefore, does not deny the possibility of guidance, is somewhat popular. Plantinga has said it. Mayr has said it. William Lane Craig has said. Several others as well. On this view, mutations are not necessarily random with respect to bringing about some intended goal in the organism in which the mutation occurs, they are simply random with respect to the needs engendered by the environment in which the organism finds itself.

    Setting aside for the moment the question of whether or not this seemingly idiosyncratic definition of “random” is truly what is meant within Darwinian theory, I simply can’t understand why anyone thinks this definition of “random” is helpful. It seems to me that if we unpack this idea a little bit we find that it can’t create any bridge whatsoever between Darwinian evolution (evolution powered by “random” mutation events) and any kind of directed evolutionary process, divine or otherwise, because we still end up in a situation where either the mutations can’t be called random in any meaningful sense within any relevant context or else they must be called random in the everyday sense of that word, which excludes the possibility of them being directed.

    Let me use an analogy here to clarify what I think is the problem.

    Let’s say I’m sitting around in my living room and I decide I want to create something and that thing I want to create is a paper airplane. I don’t NEED a paper airplane. A paper airplane would not fill any need existing in the larger context of my life or environment. I simply want to make one. So I grab a piece of paper and start folding. I fold the paper in half along it’s length, then open it back up. I fold down each of the top corners until they touch in the middle of the page. Now I refold the page in half along it’s length again, fold down one of the long edges to touch the bottom edge, flip the whole thing over and do the same to the other long edge. Finally I pick it up in my hand holding the center fold at the bottom and bend those two long edges back up to a 90 degree angle. And Voila! I have a paper airplane.

    Now, the question is, which of those folds was random?

    We know precisely why each fold was made. The first fold along the length was made essentially as a guide, because the plane needs to have bilateral symmetry. The two corners were folded down to make it more aerodynamic and to give the appearance of a cockpit. Refolding along the length was to effect the symmetry and create the fuselage area. And folding down the long edges on each side and bending them back up to 90 degrees created the wings so it would actually fly.

    We know why each fold was made and how it was intended to contribute to the final appearance and function. However, according to the idiosyncratic definition of random we’ve been discussing, ALL of these folds were actually random.

    But, of course, in the immediate context of the particular object where the folds – our mutations – were taking place so as to have a “phenotypic” effect, none of the folds were random at all.

    This means that if we’re going to adopt the ‘mutations-aren’t-correlated-to-environmental-needs’ definition of “random mutations”, we need to say that in Darwinian theory, mutations are considered “random” only when viewed in a context that is doubly-removed from the mutations themselves. The context in which they are considered random is TWO levels above the changes that are taking place. They are not random within their own larger context, being that organism in which they are occurring, but within a level of context that exists above their own larger context.

    But are we really willing to say that? Is this kind of meaning for “random” actually meaningful? What exactly ISN’T random in relation to some context that is two levels removed? By this rationale, if a man throws a basketball into a hoop during a game at the park, the general direction in which he chose to throw the ball can be considered random in relation to such things as the weather conditions in the park at the time, the number of people observing the game, the other activities being carried out by people in the park, the geographical location of the park, etc.

    If we’re not going to look at an action or event in its own immediate context and we’re instead going to move outwards to a larger contextual sphere, then we can find a way to consider anything and everything as being random, but never in any kind of meaningful sense or one that has any relation to the way in which people typically use or understand the word.

    To further demonstrate just how ridiculous it is to use “random” in this way, let’s consider a different analogy.

    Suppose a new local lottery is started and people are invited to buy tickets, choose 5 numbers in a sequence, then register their picks with the lottery. For doing this they are told they will have a chance of winning a mountain of money if their numbers are picked in a random draw at the end of the week. A bunch of people buy tickets and participate in the lottery, then they show up to watch the random draw. The person performing the draw puts his hand into a container of white balls, hunts through them for a minute, and pulls out a yellow ball, then a blue one, a pink one, a red one, and finally an orange one. The numbers on these balls and the sequence in which they are pulled happens to match the numbers and sequence that had been chosen by the very person performing the draw. Suddenly there’s outrage from the audience. They start yelling and throwing things at him, threatening to sue, because this was supposed to be a random draw and it obviously wasn’t. The man puts up his hands to quiet the audience. “Now hold on a minute,” he says. “The draw WAS random. Absolutely it was random. I put my hand in this here container and I pulled out 5 balls that had absolutely no correlation whatsoever to the size of this room, the way the room is ventilated, the temperature, or even the type of lighting. I did exactly what I said I would do. It was a random draw if ever there was one and you have no reason to complain.”

    Would anybody be appeased by this explanation of how the draw was “random”? Of course not.

    The necessary conclusion of all this would seem to be that if some action is taken or some event is brought about intentionally to fulfill some purpose related to its IMMEDIATE context, then it CANNOT be called “random” in any meaningful sense. We cannot call it “random” unless we redefine the contextual sphere in which we’re talking about it in a way that would make ANYTHING and EVERYTHING random. But if we choose to do this, then it becomes quite obvious that our intent is not to say something meaningful about the action or event, but merely to characterize it in a way we find useful, by any means necessary.

    Is this really what Darwinists want to admit their theory is doing when it claims that natural selection acts on random mutations? I find that highly unlikely. But if they AREN’T willing to admit this, then it seems impossible to claim that genetic mutations can be both random and directed. In the absence of such an admission, random mutations and directed mutations would seem to be mutually exclusive.

    But let’s take a few steps back here and consider another problem. If someone is going to allow that these mutations that are “random” with a view to environmental needs could still be directed in some way by an intelligence, then how do they even KNOW that the changes were NOT intentionally correlated to environmental needs? How do they even set a definition for “environmental needs”? If some set of phenotypic changes proved useful in an organism’s immediate environment, how do they know that this usefulness was not the reason the changes came about in the first place? And if the changes allowed the organism to move into and prosper in a new environment, how do they know THAT was not the reason the changes came about in the first place? It seems that the only way they would have a basis for claiming the changes weren’t correlated to environmental needs would be if they were already operating under the assumption that changes were undirected and random in the normal sense of the word.

    This objection would seem to apply all the more forcefully to those Theistic Evolutionists who think evolution was somehow pre-loaded at the start of the universe to ultimately arrive at something like humans. If natural selection by way of environmental pressure is what determines what organisms and variations thrive and continue to evolve and which go extinct, then either the environmental conditions had to be pre-known and accounted for so that the evolutionary line leading to humans would not be prematurely snuffed out by bad weather and big teeth, or else the evolutionary mechanism would need to include the ability to evolve new traits specifically in response to environmental needs. In both cases, the mutations bringing about the useful phenotypes would need to be correlated in some way to the adaptive needs created by environmental conditions and so wouldn’t even be random in the idiosyncratic sense we’ve been talking about. In other words, evolution would need to work in pretty much exactly the way that most people wrongly think it does work, which is like an arms race (a notion that Mike Behe explains is quite incorrect in The Edge of Evolution), but this would be an arms race that is powered by internal processes that trigger mutations for the specific purpose of adapting to some kind of environmental condition.

    In short, I don’t see this idiosyncratic definition of “random” as offering any sound refuge to Theistic Evolutionists who want to assert that it is possible to accept the Neo-Darwinian description of mutation events as being “random” and yet still maintain that these mutations are in any sense guided.

  223. 223
    mike1962 says:

    Eric Anderson: Again I ask, can someone — anyone — tell me what these alleged initial boundary conditions are that would turn a random evolutionary process into a non-random, guided, purposeful process?

    Is it fair to assume you are not including a heavily front-loaded FUCA in this boundary condition?

  224. 224
    StephenB says:

    velikovskys

    Just the opposite, I believe an omnipotent,omniscient God can create anything He desires thru whatever means He chooses unless it is logically impossible. Your claim seems to be that He can’t.

    God cannot create a cube that is also a sphere. It has nothing to do with his omnipotence and everything to do with logic. A directed evolutionary process that is open to producing only one specified outcome (Theism) cannot also be non-directed evolutionary process that is open to producing whatever outcome randomness happens to come up with. (Darwinism). It must be one or the other.

    It is impossible for God to know that an open-ended evolutionary process “was going to produce a specified outcome” for the simple reason that an open-ended evolutionary cannot produce a specified outcome. God cannot know that something is going to happen if it cannot, in fact, happen. I am amazed that so many here cannot grasp this point.

  225. 225
    zeroseven says:

    Eric Anderson:

    The initial boundary conditions are those where the evolutionary process would end up at homo sapiens. God must know the outcome of all of the possible outcomes of an evolutionary process from an initial starting point. He is omniscient. So he just chooses the one that he knows results in humans. Are you saying he can’t do that?

  226. 226
    zeroseven says:

    I mean, let’s keep it simple. Let’s say there are only 10 evolutionary pathways possible, only one of which leads to man. God just starts off the correct one. Now let’s suppose there an an infinity number of possible pathways. Obviously he knows the outcome of every one of them, so again, he just starts off the correct one.

  227. 227
    HeKS says:

    StephenB @224

    I just want to see if I properly understand what you do mean and what you don’t mean by your comments.

    You say:

    God cannot create a cube that is also a sphere. It has nothing to do with his omnipotence and everything to do with logic. A directed evolutionary process that is open to producing only one specified outcome (Theism) cannot also be non-directed evolutionary process that is open to producing whatever outcome randomness happens to come up with. (Darwinism). It must be one or the other.

    I agree completely with this part.

    It is impossible for God to know that an open-ended evolutionary process “was going to produce a specified outcome” for the simple reason that an open-ended evolutionary cannot produce a specified outcome. God cannot know that something is going to happen if it cannot, in fact, happen. I am amazed that so many here cannot grasp this point.

    If I understand you correctly, and I think I do, you have worded this very carefully so that it is technically completely accurate, but I want to draw attention to your wording so that your point is not missed.

    The key word in your statement is really “specified”, and this should be distinguished from something like “particular”, or even “specific”. A “specified” outcome in this contest carries the notion of an outcome that is specifically identified in advance.

    So, when you say…

    It is impossible for God to know that an open-ended evolutionary process “was going to produce a specified outcome”

    …what you are doing is pointing out such a notion involves a contradiction in terms.

    In other words, I don’t think you are saying that it is necessarily impossible for God to know that an open-ended evolutionary process would produce some particular or specific outcome. After all, any outcome would be some particular or specific outcome and if God is omniscient it is possible that he would either know what that outcome would be or could know what that outcome would be if he so desired (depending on your view of the nature of God’s omniscience), provided he is not bound by time like we are and could in some sense actually look ahead to see the result. And yet, the mere ability to ultimately know what that particular outcome would be would still not make that outcome specified. God might be able to see the outcome in advance due to his relation to time, but he would not be able to predict the outcome. Even more importantly, whatever that outcome happened to be, it could not be one that God had actually specified in advance, as the notions of a constrained process that produces a single specified outcome and an open-ended process that permits many outcomes are mutually exclusive concepts.

    Knowing an outcome is not at all the same thing as causing, guiding, or directing an outcome.

    Have I got your intent correctly?

  228. 228
    HeKS says:

    zeroseven,

    You said:

    I mean, let’s keep it simple. Let’s say there are only 10 evolutionary pathways possible, only one of which leads to man. God just starts off the correct one. Now let’s suppose there an an infinity number of possible pathways. Obviously he knows the outcome of every one of them, so again, he just starts off the correct one.

    I don’t think that thought-experiment is applicable here.

    You seem to be positing a set of different evolutionary processes that each follow a separate law-like path to a particular outcome, such that one need only press the start button on the correct process in order for it to inevitably end up at a predetermined outcome.

    I’m not sure how this accurately models any evolutionary process advocated by the general scientific community. It certainly doesn’t address the issue of how an open-ended, stochastic evolutionary process driven by random mutations interacting with chance environmental conditions could possibly produce a particular outcome that had been intended and specified in advance.

  229. 229
    zeroseven says:

    HeKS:

    As Velikovskys has been saying, from an omniscient being’s point of view, evolution is a law-like path as the omniscient being can see very step along the way. From its point of view, every path is laid out in his mind in perfect detail every step of the way. Doesn’t matter if its random or non-random: he still sees every step.

  230. 230
    Phinehas says:

    Andere:

    Does anyone else see a conflict between the free will of the created and the omniscience of the Creator?

    (This is a bit of a tangent, so hopefully I will be forgiven for addressing it. Even so, I wouldn’t want to get involved in a back-and-forth on this issue without the thread-owner’s permission, so this will be my only post on the subject.)

    I don’t think there must be a conflict between free will and Omniscience. As someone else has pointed out, to know is not to cause.

    It is trivial to make this distinction when looking backward in time. I know that you wrote what you wrote in your last post (as I’ve quoted above), but that doesn’t mean you didn’t exercise free will in writing it. If you had written something different (as you freely could have done), I’d merely know something different.

    This works, because free will can only be exercised in the now, not in the past. At the decision point in the past, you had a choice. You chose to write what you did. Looking back into the past, however, you no longer have a choice. You wrote what you did, and it is immutable.

    I don’t see any compelling reason that knowledge of future events must be all that different. If I had knowledge regarding the next post you write, then I would know that you will write what you will write, but this doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be able to exercise free will in writing it. If you were to write something different (as you could freely do), then I would merely know something different.

    Again, this works, because free will can only be exercised in the now, not in the future. At the decision point in the future, you will have a choice. You will choose to write what you will. Looking into the future, however, you have not yet reached that decision point. You will write what you will write, and at this point, that future is just as immutable as the past. But when that future becomes the present, you will still have the free will that operates in the present, just like when the past was the present, you had free will to make a choice.

    I don’t think this is a particularly intuitive way to look at things. We tend to think of the past as immutable and the future as anything but. However, free will only ever operates in the present, so for me, the future may be just as immutable as the past, in which case knowledge of the immutable (whether past or future) need not preclude free will.

  231. 231
    Origenes says:

    HeKS: In short, I don’t see this idiosyncratic definition of “random” as offering any sound refuge to Theistic Evolutionists who want to assert that it is possible to accept the Neo-Darwinian description of mutation events as being “random” and yet still maintain that these mutations are in any sense guided.

    As I understand it, all the refuge a theistic evolutionist needs is that “random” is not “true randomness”. Whatever Mayr has to say, the only thing that matters is that determinism is preserved. As long as Mayr doesn’t claim that something truly in-deterministic is going on, it’s compatible with theistic evolutionism.
    The theistic evolutionist can deal with determinism.

    StephenB: Deterministic evolution would be compatible with theism, however …

  232. 232
    StephenB says:

    HeKS

    If I understand you correctly, and I think I do, you have worded this very carefully so that it is technically completely accurate, but I want to draw attention to your wording so that your point is not missed.
    The key word in your statement is really “specified”, and this should be distinguished from something like “particular”, or even “specific”. A “specified” outcome in this contest carries the notion of an outcome that is specifically identified in advance.

    Precisely. Another way of putting it is that Specified means in accordance with the Creator’s apriori intent. Yes, you are reading me loud and clear.

    So, when you say…
    It is impossible for God to know that an open-ended evolutionary process “was going to produce a specified outcome”
    …what you are doing is pointing out such a notion involves a contradiction in terms.

    Absolutely right. There is no space between us so far.

    In other words, I don’t think you are saying that it is necessarily impossible for God to know that an open-ended evolutionary process would produce some particular or specific outcome.

    Right again. Open-ended evolution not only can but will produce some particular or specific outcome. How can it not? All final outcomes from randomness will be specific insofar as they are different from other outcomes. What open-ended evolution cannot do is to infallibly produce a specified outcome—that is—one that is guaranteed to match the designers apriori intent.

    After all, any outcome would be some particular or specific outcome and if God is omniscient it is possible that he would either know what that outcome would be or could know what that outcome would be if he so desired (depending on your view of the nature of God’s omniscience), provided he is not bound by time like we are and could in some sense actually look ahead to see the result.

    Absolutely. God, by definition, is omniscient, which means that He knows everything that is going to happen (if it can happen), including the outcome of any random process.

    And yet, the mere ability to ultimately know what that particular outcome would be would still not make that outcome specified.

    Right. The specified outcome is a function of what God does, not what God knows. It makes no sense to say, as the TEs seem to, that God relies on His omniscience to anticipate what his omnipotence has already provided for. His right hand is always aware of what his left hand is doing—or has already done. He is, after all, not reacting to someone else’s evolutionary design (assuming arguendo that macro-evolution is true). It is the process that He set in place. He knows how it will turn out because it is His design. Omniscience has nothing to do with it.

    God might be able to see the outcome in advance due to his relation to time, but he would not be able to predict the outcome.

    Technically, I would say that God doesn’t foreknow, He just knows, in the same way that He immediately knows the relationship of all causes and their effects. I realize that you have already taken that into account. Of course, it is easier to put that aside and use the language of “foreknowledge” so that we can make sense of what we are talking about.

    Even more importantly, whatever that outcome happened to be, it could not be one that God had actually specified in advance, as the notions of a constrained process that produces a single specified outcome and an open-ended process that permits many outcomes are mutually exclusive concepts.

    Knowing an outcome is not at all the same thing as causing, guiding, or directing an outcome.
    Have I got your intent correctly?

    Yes, absolutely. It would be hard to present a more faithful interpretation of my remarks. Thank you. My only objective was to lay it out there in an abbreviated fashion so that others could grasp the idea more quickly. So many people here are struggling with (and resisting) the point.

  233. 233
    rhampton7 says:

    Because of Free Will, God could not have specified human history, as the notion of Free Will is an open-ended process that permits many outcomes even though God knows the exact timeline of our seemingly infinite, interconnected choices.

    That’s the difference between StephenB and in regards to Theistic Evolution being a contradiction (StephenB) or not (I)

  234. 234
    mike1962 says:

    Impossible stuff is not possible.

    Even for “God.”

    Tom Aquinas might be appalled, but so what.

    RIP Tom.

    You didn’t know everything.

    Point: when thinking about what is real, you cannot violate your own thinking processes. Else what you think, is necessarily violated. And thus…

    Nonsense.

    But we all know that Human Reason has its limits. So why are you relying on it for the Big Questions?

    You’re asking a question of Human Reason that it can’t answer.

    The answer must come from another source.

    John 6:44

  235. 235
    Origenes says:

    StephenB #216,

    thank you for your response.

    I fully agree with Richards that Darwinism attempts to show that teleology in nature is absent and posits evolution as an unguided process. Indeed, the theory wants to make a case for atheism.

    However Plantinga is correct to point out that, at the end of the day, Darwinism fails to show that, given the parameters of this theory, teleology in nature is necessarily absent and that evolution is necessarily unguided. The basic idea for theistic evolutionism is that when evolution is a lawful deterministic process, then it could be so that God created it with man as the intended result.

    To be clear, I’m neither a theistic evolutionist nor do I find the theory appealing in any way.

  236. 236
    Eric Anderson says:

    zeroseven:

    As Velikovskys has been saying, from an omniscient being’s point of view, evolution is a law-like path as the omniscient being can see very step along the way.

    Nonsense. As has been pointed out to velikovskys numerous times, knowledge is not causation. And if we go down this unsupportable path of conflating two very different concepts, then our creative being, just by virtue of being “omniscient”, caused everything by force of law from the outset. There is no contingency in the universe, no free will, no meaningful separate identity, no choice, no rational basis for reward or punishment, no rational distinction between right and wrong. It would be difficult to think of a more irrational and problematic philosophical and theological doctrine. (And for those who are trying to force-fit this idea into a traditional Judeo-Christian set of principles, they need to think long and hard about how diametrically opposed it is.)

    —–

    Regarding evolution specifically, let’s step back a moment and try a more basic question to drive the point home. Is there a difference between:

    (a) setting up a random process and then letting that process run its own course, wherever it may; and

    (b) setting up a random process and then intervening in that process to ensure that the process leads to a desired end?

  237. 237
    Eric Anderson says:

    Origines @235:

    The basic idea for theistic evolutionism is that when evolution is a lawful deterministic process, then it could be so that God created it with man as the intended result.

    Yep. That’s the basic idea.

    Which means that (1) they are not talking about “evolution” as understood by their materialist colleagues and they need to be clear when they speak that they do not support the traditional evolutionary model, and (2) they are proposing a completely hypothetical, unproven, and highly-questionable idea in its place, namely that there are some ways to “set up” an evolutionary process, some initial boundary conditions, that could somehow, in some undefined, unspecified way, cause the random to be nonrandom, the contingent to be fixed, the unlikely to be certain.

    Look, I understand the appeal of “God created via evolution.” It allows a person to still retain their faith, while at the same time shaking hands and rubbing shoulders with their materialist colleagues, and still be one of the cool kids in the “science” club. It also allows a person to put the creator at far enough of a distance in space and time that they need not bother with the creator in their practice of science; their creator is also effectively insulated from any findings of science. It also allows them to distance themselves from radical, outrageous ideas outside of the mainstream “science” club — ideas like intelligent design.

    So there are a number of reasons for the theistic evolutionist position. But they are much more social, practical, and political than logical or scientific.

  238. 238
    velikovskys says:

    Eric:
    Having a process that is both random and non-random is logically impossible.

    Las Vegas then does not logically exist, the gambling system is both random and non random resulting in a non random outcome. Each throw of the dice is random,the rules governing those throws are non random.

    The process cannot be both A and Not-A. That doesn’t work, even for your omniscient, omnipotent God.

    But a process can have both A and not A . For instance, mutations are understood as random, other parts of evolution are not.

    Do you believe that particles randomly bumped into each other and formed the first life form?

    No idea, but that would be irrelevant to evolution as a process and the reasonableness of the TE position

    Do you further believe that random mutations caused that life to develop to the current state of diversity and complexity that we see around us?

    No, but then neither do any evolutionists.

    If so, then you are a materialist and there is no need for a creator in your creation story

    Ok, but can I believe matter can be causative?

    If not, then you are not a materialist and you might as well admit as much to yourself and to your colleagues and friends who keep pushing a materialist creation story.

    Two choices, how about a third? That an omnipotent, omniscient God can use any tool, including materialistic processes that are logically possible to accomplish His aims.God does not need to be the proximate cause of all things

    What seems surprising is that TE is so reviled, to me it seems just another form of ID. A designer is required.It also proposes a mechanism by which the designer designs. Is the antagonism an indication that the only mechanism acceptable to ID is a supernatural one?

  239. 239
    velikovskys says:

    Eric:
    He is also conflating knowledge and causation, and is failing to see the distinction between (a) creating a process and letting it run naturally, and (b) directing the outcome of the process.

    Knowledge of the outcome of any process,even a random one, lets one choose the process to the outcome, no direction is required beyond the choice of causation.

  240. 240
    Origenes says:

    Eric Anderson,

    If I were allowed to add one single word, then I could agree wholeheartedly with everything you say in post #237:
    “… that there are some ways to “set up” an evolutionary process, some initial boundary conditions, that could somehow, in some undefined, unspecified way, cause the [apparently] random to be nonrandom, the contingent to be fixed, the unlikely to be certain.”

  241. 241
    velikovskys says:

    Andere:
    Does anyone else see a conflict between the free will of the created and the omniscience of the Creator?

    Atheists have, but I think it is a mainstream view that an omniscient God knows the outcome of free will but that knowledge does not cause the outcome.God knowing the outcome of the throw of the dice does not make it non random

  242. 242
    Eric Anderson says:

    Origenes @240:

    Perhaps. It is still unclear to me whether the claim is that the randomness is just an illusion or whether the randomness is real but is channeled into some purposeful, pre-determined end by some (as yet) vague and undefined initial boundary conditions.

    velikovskys seems to be arguing both approaches: randomness is just an illusion because someone knows about the outcome; and alternatively, some randomness is real, but is channeled (his Vegas example).

  243. 243
    mw says:

    It should be agreed that the mind of God does not err, does not lie, is intellectually perfect in every sense, knows how to use words, has infinite power, should take the quickest “way” to create all life forms and none life forms; including the most efficient way and the most direct way, true to his intelligent word, which a declining many take to be in the Judaeo-Christian scriptures.

    God could create by common descent evolution, giving it the appearance of being unguided, for with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27), as Jesus/God said, according to the context he was talking about, and if we believe his word.

    Some believe creation took six days, because God said he “clearly” spoke such to Moses (Num 12:8). However, why not instantaneous creation? Because it seems, that such a God wanted creation to comfortably fit the highest life form that he had generated from himself relative to human needs in relation to days of work, etc.

    Of course many speak over divine law. Still, God summoned Moses, Miriam, and Aaron together to put two of them in their place for speaking over Moses. As for Miriam, God ‘evolved’ her instantly into a leper for seven days. (Num 12:4-15)

    Jesus died keeping that he/God created in six days. He kept the seventh day Holy to show his fulfilment of the Decalogue. The Christian Sabbath is firmly rooted in Sinai.

    The original reason for the Sabbath as degenerated into a myth. Therefore, relative to theistic evolutionism, divine law is no longer holy verbatim as an act of remembrance in six days (Exod 20:8-11).

    Clearly, theistic evolution or Darwinian evolution is not the way of an infinite power of the God at Sinai, if you take such a God at his word. Darwin rejected historically documented evidence of miracles, being against his knowledge, and more importantly, against his new founded belief and dangerous idea.

    His way included largely appealing to dead bones which caused him nightmares. The fossil evidence for common descent does not prove/support transitional forms, rather, stasis of kinds, which does not match his predictions on a major point of his theory. Still, he had faith in his belief of his type of natural selection, which could move ants into elephants; so to speak, or a singularity of a life form into every life form: a greater act than God, for no intelligence was or is needed. Indeed, a substitute god, or even none at all.

    However, it cannot be that all the worlds’ minds (in a fallen state) are equal or greater than a single word of divine law, as in the Decalogue. Pride, thinks different, and has created numerous Catholic and Protestant scriptures/Gospels according to every view.

    If Jesus/God died for a myth, as common descent implies, a divine law, that God created in six days is the biggest blunder of a statement he/God ever made. In turn, we then intellectually crucify Jesus; he is an intellectual blunderer, not to be trusted and Christians are in danger of toasting in the common descent ‘oven,’ Jesus.

    Again, consider, that the notion of God/divine law, strongly suggests that the totality of (fallen) human intellect and knowledge cannot be greater than a divine law. And, if one part of any divine law is wrong, then, as God is supreme judge, the total law is not worth a monkeys if one single letter or number of the law be proved wrong by human intelligence.

    The equally important factor in origins besides life having the appearance of design is that the Creation may have the appearance of age and maturity in some aspects, but that does not make such a creation old, if it be the will of God, and divine law.

    Surely, a Loving Parent would provide the firs born in his image, with all the comforts necessary: provide a complete nursery for a matured Adam and Eve.

    Therefore, in that context, God does not deceive from apparent cosmic age/maturity, because he basically swore on his name that he created in six days.

    At times, more faith and less science, for, according to Judaeo-Christian scripture, we are justified by faith (not consensus theory), and divine law was a guardian until faith in Christ came (Gal 3:24). Or, do we now claim that law which Jesus fulfilled to save us, as many believe, has also got the pox on it; is blotched and a mess of divine intelligence, elasticated into the total opposite to clear reading, by a large element of belief itself which is now preferred.

    Six means six, no more, no less, Jesus staked his life on it, and as God/Jesus said, if you not believe what Moses wrote, how will you believe my words? (Jn 5:47), as he fulfilled the law (Matt 5:18-19), accurately one would hope, or our salvation is not accurate and in doubt, if we believe in such!

    A baker’s dozen; rather, God’s true half dozen days at Sinai written in stone, no more, no less, witnessed by one, and with miraculous effects from Sinai over forty years, as witnessed by many; recorded by Moses, confirmed by Christ, and believed by some others.

    Is such human science, no. It is super science, it is the miraculous, which Darwin cast out in order to unite us with knuckle draggers and beguile us into believing our true divine ancestry, written in stone at Sinai, direct, pure and Holy, is all a myth.

  244. 244
    velikovskys says:

    Stephen:
    God cannot create a cube that is also a sphere. It has nothing to do with his omnipotence and everything to do with logic.

    Hence my qualification that an omnipotent God can do anything logically possible

    A directed evolutionary process that is open to producing only one specified outcome (Theism) cannot also be non-directed evolutionary process that is open to producing whatever outcome randomness happens to come up with. (Darwinism). It must be one or the other.

    TE accepts the first option and provides a means of that direction, the laws of the natural world and specifically evolutionary processes, which includes random mutations . What is your mechanism?

    it is impossible for God to know that an open-ended evolutionary process “was going to produce a specified outcome” for the simple reason that an open-ended evolutionary cannot produce a specified outcome

    Certainly true if you did not know the outcome however omnipotent, omniscient knows the specific actual outcome of the open ended process from the multitude of possible outcomes, if that specific outcome was what He wished, then certainly He could use that means to His specified outcome. After all God is doing the specification.

    God cannot know that something is going to happen if it cannot, in fact, happen. I am amazed that so many here cannot grasp this point.

    Of course, now all you need to do is prove logically it cannot happen. Now I certainly am not claiming that God choose to use an open ended process only that it is logically possible., but so far I don’t think you have shown it is logically impossible.

    You just have to prove it is impossible for evolution to produce humans even with laws of nature and initial life created by God .These are all within TE scope of belief and none violate the scientific understanding of evolutionary processes.

    Then it would be nice If you provided alternative explanation

    On the other hand you could dispute that an omniscient God knows the outcome of a random process.

  245. 245
    bill cole says:

    Velikovsky

    You just have to prove it is impossible for evolution to produce humans even with laws of nature and initial life created by God .These are all within TE scope of belief and none violate the scientific understanding of evolutionary processes.

    I don’t know how evolution can produce a human like cell assuming the first life was a prokaryotic cell. Millions of new nucleotides need to get organized to make this change. The number of trials required are for all intense and purposes infinite.

  246. 246
    StephenB says:

    velikovskys
    .

    Then it would be nice If you provided alternative explanation

    My alternative is ID, of course. (Assuming arguendo that macro evolution is true) God designed a specified (not an open-ended) process to produce homo-sapiens, which is exactly what He wanted, and did not design an open-ended process that would produce many things that He didn’t want.

    On the other hand you could dispute that an omniscient God knows the outcome of a random process.

    Why would I dispute something that is obviously true? Of course God, who is omniscient, can know the outcome of a random process. I am sorry to say this, but you simply don’t understand the argument.

    Let me try to use an analogy that may help:

    [a] I load the dice such that the number 7 will appear every time. (specified result) I designed the process so that 7 is guaranteed to appear. It is the only possible outcome because I have closed off all others. If I hadn’t closed them off, I couldn’t guarantee the result.

    [b] I use fair dice, in which case there are eleven possible outcomes. This is an open ended process that will allow all numbers from 2 to 12, including 7. I cannot guarantee that I will get 7. I may get 7, but it is unlikely. The reason I cannot guarantee that 7 will appear is because the process is opened up so that other numbers can come up as well.
    Someone questions the point as says, “Wait a minute,” If God knows that seven is going to come up with fair dice, then it will come up. Thus, the open-ended process of fair dice can guarantee a seven because God knows the outcome of all random processes.

    No, I say, the only way you can guarantee a seven is to load the dice. You cannot guarantee a seven with fair dice. Thus, it is impossible for God to know that the fair dice can guarantee a seven for the simple reason that fair dice cannot guarantee a seven. God’s omniscience has nothing to do with it.

    Do you understand what is wrong with your argument?

  247. 247
    StephenB says:

    Diogenes

    However Plantinga is correct to point out that, at the end of the day, Darwinism fails to show that, given the parameters of this theory, teleology in nature is necessarily absent and that evolution is necessarily unguided. The basic idea for theistic evolutionism is that when evolution is a lawful deterministic process, then it could be so that God created it with man as the intended result.

    What you are describing is a God-designed process that unfolds according to natural laws. Darwinists, as well as the TEs both reject that idea, precisely because it follows the principles of Intelligent Design. If either Darwinism or TE could accept God-guided evolution, they would join hands with ID rather than to identify with the arbitrary rule of methodological naturalism, which rules out God as a possible cause. In order to become rational, TEs would need to reject methodological naturalism, but they will not do it because they would be expelled from the academy and cool kids club. So they are stuck with the logical consequences of following the faith-based naturalism of Darwinism rather than the evidence-based design of ID. We must evaluate evolutionary science as it is presented to us, now as how it would be if we sanitized it with logic.

    In fact, evolutionary science, which is also TE science, presents itself as a purposeless, unguided process. So it is with high school teachers, college professors, and the textbooks they use. I have already provided the evidence, so there is no point in going over it again. Since Darwin did not seem to address the question of determinism explicitly, those who use his model must address it for him, and what they say is that random means purposeless and unguided. They are quite explicit about the matter.

    Even Eugenie Scott was in that camp until she came to realize that she could get more Christian recruits if she toned it down. So she changed NCSE conditions for evolution from “unguided” to neutral, not because she had become any less dedicated to purposeless but because she knew that she could pull in naïve Christians (and Christian leaders) into her camp–if the word “unguided” was omitted. It was an effective public relations coup. As she put it, “One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists at a school board meeting any day.”

    Is Plantinga correct when he suggests that Mayr or Sober’s anomalous and narrow definitions of randomness allow for purpose or guidedness in Darwinian evolution? Let’s settle the matter one Darwinist at a time”

    Did Mayr really accept the possibility, as we are being told, that Darwinian evolution, as a process, could be reconciled with or be open to teleology, purpose or direction? Surely a direct answer to that question from Mayr himself should settle the issue and supersede anything that Plantinga has to say about it.

    Mayr says this: “Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the adaptedness and diversity of the world solely materialistically.”
    Is this not the very same interpretation of Darwinism that the vast majority holds to? Remember, the key matter here is not the definition of “random” per se but rather what that definition means in terms of the process as a whole. Mayr is very clear about what he means. So, I ask anyone who calls on Mayr to sanitize Darwinian evolution: Can you please tell me how you reconcile “no God” and “no supernatural cause,” with God-guided evolution?

    So, what about Elliott Sober’s definition? I will let Jay Richards deal with this one: “If we use Sober’s definition of random in our larger definition of Darwinism, then Darwinism turns out to be compatible with special creation. This reduction to the absurd suggests, I think, that Sober’s definition doesn’t capture the full “Darwinian” meaning of words such as “random” and “evolution.” The whole point of Darwin’s so-called mechanism — natural selection and random variation — was to displace special creation (as well as the teleological evolutionary ideas of people such as Alfred Russel Wallace). This is historically indisputable. Mayr’s quote above about the meaning of Darwinism is well-established conventional wisdom.”

    That is the key point. We are not simply discussing someone’s anomalous definition of “random,” but rather the “full Darwinian meaning of the words.” Does anyone really believe that Elliot Sober is open to the prospect that evolution could be guided? On the contrary, he rejects Michael Behe’s arguments precisely because they favor guidedness as a counter explanation for naturalistic forces working without guidance.

    In fact, the so-called “science” of Darwinism, as all its proponents keep telling us, leaves no room for guided evolution. Christian Darwinism is, by definition, an oxymoron and anyone who embraces that position is, as the bible puts it, “double minded”– or in secular terms–“schizophrenic”

  248. 248
    zeroseven says:

    Eric @236:

    I’m not saying knowledge is causation. I’m not even discussing causation.

    Let’s assume arguendo, that humans evolved via an evolutionary process. Are you saying that at the point in time when the process started (let’s say 500 million years ago) God would not have known that humans were going to evolve in the future form that process? If that’s what you think, it seems quite a limitation on an omniscient being’s omniscience.

  249. 249
    rhampton7 says:

    No, I say, the only way you can guarantee a seven is to load the dice. You cannot guarantee a seven with fair dice. Thus, it is impossible for God to know that the fair dice can guarantee a seven for the simple reason that fair dice cannot guarantee a seven. God’s omniscience has nothing to do with it.

    If this were true, then Free Will breaks God’s plan for humanity for the outcomes are not guaranteed. Like the fair dice, we are not “loaded”.

  250. 250
    StephenB says:

    SB: No, I say, the only way you can guarantee a seven is to load the dice. You cannot guarantee a seven with fair dice. Thus, it is impossible for God to know that the fair dice can guarantee a seven for the simple reason that fair dice cannot guarantee a seven. God’s omniscience has nothing to do with it.

    If this were true,

    What do you mean, *if* it were true. It is obviously true.

    –rhampton 7

    then Free Will breaks God’s plan for humanity for the outcomes are not guaranteed. Like the fair dice, we are not “loaded”.

    Who said man was loaded? The discussion is about the evolutionary process, not God’s plan for man. The two cannot be compared: The former does not have free will; the latter does.

  251. 251
    rhampton7 says:

    Yes, they are comparable in that both randomness and free will mean that there are many possible outcomes, none of them guaranteed. Do you agree or disagree?

    If anything, free will has even greater freedom and thus less likely to produce a specified outcome than would randomness.

  252. 252
    StephenB says:

    rhampton7

    “Yes, they are comparable in that both randomness and free will mean that there are many possible outcomes, none of them guaranteed. Do you agree or disagree?”

    I disagree. Specified evolution allows for only one outcome–by definition. If evolution is true, and if God planned its course, then nature is not “free” to change that course. Free will has nothing to do with God’s plan for evolution. because free will involves the capacity to make moral decisions.

    “If anything, free will has even greater freedom and thus less likely to produce a specified outcome than would randomness.

    God does not specify man’s outcome; he species man’s existence. Man uses or misuses his free will to determine his own outcome. Nature has no such freedom. While man is free to disobey God’s moral laws, nature is not free to disobey God’s physical laws.

  253. 253
    Eric Anderson says:

    zeroseven @248:

    Let’s assume arguendo, that humans evolved via an evolutionary process. Are you saying that at the point in time when the process started (let’s say 500 million years ago) God would not have known that humans were going to evolve in the future form that process? If that’s what you think, it seems quite a limitation on an omniscient being’s omniscience.

    No. I’m not saying that. Let’s grant omniscience. Let’s even grant that the omniscience comes from God having some sick predictive skills (rather than the more theologically common idea of God being able to see the end from the beginning outside of time, so to speak).

    The point of the discussion is very much about causation. Specifically, velikovskys has argued that if God knows what the outcome will be then God also, by some strange twist that escapes me, caused the outcome. This is nonsense. They are very different matters.

    —–

    While we’re at it, I think we’re on the same page, but just to confirm, when we talk about your hypothetical of “humans evolving via an evolutionary process” the point at issue is whether humans evolved by the evolutionary process, as understood by evolutionary scientists generally and by materialists specifically, namely, without guidance, purpose, intervention, design and so on.

    What some TE’s are apparently trying to do is have their cake and eat it too: Evolution is an unguided, purposeless, purely natural and material process, so we don’t need no stinkin’ intelligent design. Molecules-to-man works just fine, thank you very much. Now we can still be card-carrying, methodological-naturalism-following, members-in-good-standing of the materialistic science community. Oh, but of course we believe in God, so when we say that evolution is an unguided, purposeless, purely natural and material process, what we really mean (wink, wink) is that this is an illusion. In fact, evolution is a guided, purposeful process, carefully designed by God and set up beforehand to turn out just the way he wanted.

    Why God would design this way? No-one has a clue. How? Who knows. Is it even possible in practice to set up initial boundary conditions that can turn an otherwise haphazard, random, purposeless process into a precision instrument of purposeful, creative power? There is no reason to think such a thing is possible in practice, or even in principle, or even logically.

    The only response seems to be: “Well, it is God after all. He can do whatever he wants. If you can’t affirmatively prove that God couldn’t do it, then we’ll assume that he did.”

    . . .

    The ultimate God-of-the-Gaps fallacy, coming back home to roost with a vengeance.

  254. 254
    Origenes says:

    StephenB, thank you for your response.

    SB: What you are describing is a God-designed process that unfolds according to natural laws. Darwinists, as well as the TEs both reject that idea, precisely because it follows the principles of Intelligent Design.

    I see no reason for TE to reject this idea, in fact, as I understand it, this is their idea.

    SB: If either Darwinism or TE could accept God-guided evolution, they would join hands with ID rather than to identify with the arbitrary rule of methodological naturalism, which rules out God as a possible cause.

    TE accepts God-guided evolution by means of front-loading.
    TE holds that science is not able to see God’s guidance of evolution — a crucial assumption, which grounds their rejection of ID and their acceptance of MN. Moreover, naturalism cannot rule out that God is the cause of things it assumes but does not explain, such as: the universe, natural laws and the initial conditions of life.

    SB: In order to become rational, TEs would need to reject methodological naturalism, but they will not do it because they would be expelled from the academy and cool kids club.

    Is it irrational to hold that science cannot see God’s guidance? Can you elaborate? It is an absolutely crucial assumption for TE. I have no idea how they ground it and, indeed, intuitively it makes little sense.

    SB: So they are stuck with the logical consequences of following the faith-based naturalism of Darwinism rather than the evidence-based design of ID. We must evaluate evolutionary science as it is presented to us, now as how it would be if we sanitized it with logic.
    In fact, evolutionary science, which is also TE science, presents itself as a purposeless, unguided process. So it is with high school teachers, college professors, and the textbooks they use. I have already provided the evidence, so there is no point in going over it again. Since Darwin did not seem to address the question of determinism explicitly, those who use his model must address it for him, and what they say is that random means purposeless and unguided. They are quite explicit about the matter.

    It would have been more convincing if Darwinian Theory explicitly ruled out front-loading. By not doing so, they left a door open, so to speak. “Purposeless” and “unguided” is consistent with TE’s claim that science cannot see God’s guidance.

    SB: Is Plantinga correct when he suggests that Mayr or Sober’s anomalous and narrow definitions of randomness allow for purpose or guidedness in Darwinian evolution? Let’s settle the matter one Darwinist at a time”
    Mayr says this: “Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the adaptedness and diversity of the world solely materialistically.”

    Darwinism doesn’t say anything about the coming into existence of the universe, natural laws and the initial conditions for life. Again, TE is okay with a materialistic deterministic explanation of life, as long as they can posit God as the creator of that clock-like process.

    SB: So, I ask anyone who calls on Mayr to sanitize Darwinian evolution: Can you please tell me how you reconcile “no God” and “no supernatural cause,” with God-guided evolution?

    TE is compatible with a purely materialistic, deterministic, lawful, hands-off process of evolution. Darwinism says nothing about what caused the universe, natural laws and the initial conditions of life. In one word: “front-loading”.

    SB: In fact, the so-called “science” of Darwinism, as all its proponents keep telling us, leaves no room for guided evolution.

    You still have to show that ‘guidance by frontloading’ is ruled out.

  255. 255
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    Stephen 246

    You are saying that an all-powerful all-seeing all-knowing god stuck his pinky into nothing and created life– the ultimate goal of which was humans. He then decided to care very, very much about their genitals and the way they use them(or keep them!). You then proceed to claim that an all-powerful all-seeing, all-knowing god cannot do anything or see all or know all, because he is bound by the laws of logic, which he presumably created. You are very confused.

  256. 256
    Eric Anderson says:

    Origines:

    You still have to show that ‘guidance by frontloading’ is ruled out.

    “Front loading” is normally understood as a designer having purposely created first life and having included in early organisms the design characteristics (including DNA, programming logic, and so forth) to react and even change, in response to the environment or pre-programmed cues, into new organisms.

    That is very different from saying that an otherwise materialistic process like evolution was somehow “guided” by setting up initial boundary conditions or laws.

    Which are you referring to?

  257. 257
    Origenes says:

    Eric Anderson #256,

    The answer to your question is: the latter — although I have noticed that TE is open to the creation of first life.
    Notice that I’m not proposing boundary conditions in conjunction with randomness. If TE is to be coherent, then true randomness is out.

    BTW VJTorley:

    Professor Swamidass’s position may be akin to that of John Henry Newman, making him what we would call a “front-loader.”

  258. 258
    StephenB says:

    Hi Origenes, thanks for your comment. Because our discussion has become somewhat expanded, I will try to extend my answers rather than increase their number.

    I see no reason for TE to reject this idea (God guided evolution), in fact, as I understand it, this is their idea.

    That was the old-style TE, which is consistent with ID, the Michael Behe variety of God guided evolution. The new-style TE takes the insane position the God guided unguided evolution.

    Remember, TEs claim to follow the “science,” which to them, is defined by Neo-Darwinian ideology and the unlimited capacity of naturalistic forces acting alone. At the same time, they are also trying to say that those forces are not acting alone. God is involved.

    Methodological naturalism rules out God or any supernatural intelligent agent as a cause. It is the (arbitrary) rule that scientists must study nature as if nature is all there is. Thus, TEs, insofar as the accept MN, are committed to the naturalistic Neo-Darwinistic framework of unguided, undesigned, natural causes acting alone to create the “illusion of design.” Then, they follow by saying that God designed this undersigned process, which just happens to leave no clues about the existence of the designer. It is an intellectual madhouse.

    Is it irrational to hold that science cannot see God’s guidance?

    It all depends on how you define science. By my definition, (an unfettered search for truth using scientific methods, such as observation, establishing/testing hypotheses, drawing conclusions from evidence etc.) it would be irrational to hold that science cannot detect God’s designs. According to Methodological Naturalism, it would not be irrational for the simple reason that, by its rules, you are not allowed to consider the evidence.”

    Under the circumstances, I would also say that it is irrational to assume that science cannot detect the effects of God’s designs. There is no reason to assume that. Design often leaves clues.

    It is even more irrational to say, as the TEs do, that God’s designs can be detected in cosmology (fine tuning of the universe etc.) but cannot be detected in biology (DNA molecule). That is completely irrational. Why would God reveal himself in the macro marvels and then hide himself in the micro marvels?

    According to the pseudo-science of Darwinism, unguided, naturalistic forces can produce things that have the “appearance of having been designed.” If you make the apriori (and unwarranted) assumption that real design is an illusion, it follows that design cannot be detected. One cannot detect something that doesn’t exist.

    ID, on the other hand, identifies patterns of matter that appear to have been arranged for a purpose and analyze them to discern which of two alternatives (nature or art) would be the most reasonable choice.

    In fact, evolutionary science, which is also TE science, presents itself as a purposeless, unguided process. So it is with high school teachers, college professors, and the textbooks they use. I have already provided the evidence, so there is no point in going over it again. Since Darwin did not seem to address the question of determinism explicitly, those who use his model must address it for him, and what they say is that random means purposeless and unguided. They are quite explicit about the matter.

    It would have been more convincing if Darwinian Theory explicitly ruled out front-loading. By not doing so, they left a door open, so to speak. “Purposeless” and “unguided” is consistent with TE’s claim that science cannot see God’s guidance.

    If you rule out the possible existence of a frontloader (Methodological Naturalism), then you have ruled out frontloading. Isn’t it obvious that supernatural frontloading requires a supernatural frontloader?

    Again, TE is okay with a materialistic deterministic explanation of life, as long as they can posit God as the creator of that clock-like process.

    That would be fine if they would only take that ID position. But they don’t. This brings us back to their commitment to unguidedness, which rules out the guided determinism that you allude to. (Naturally the physical determination of nature’s laws does not carry over into moral determination and human choices. TEs confuse that point all day long.)

    SB: So, I ask anyone who calls on Mayr to sanitize Darwinian evolution: Can you please tell me how you reconcile “no God” and “no supernatural cause,” with God-guided evolution?

    TE is compatible with a purely materialistic, deterministic, lawful, hands-off process of evolution. Darwinism says nothing about what caused the universe, natural laws and the initial conditions of life. In one word: “front-loading”

    .

    Sorry, but that is irrelevant. I was discussing the non-impact of Sober’s definition of randomness.

    You still have to show that ‘guidance by frontloading’ is ruled out.

    If you rule out evidence for the frontloader (Methodological Naturalism), then you have ruled out evidence for the frontloading.

    Also, frontloading would be the set up for guided evolution, but TEs are committed to unguided evolution, unless Christians ask them to explain themselves, at which time they revert to their theme about how God guided an unguided process.

  259. 259
    StephenB says:

    evnfrdrcksn

    You are saying that an all-powerful all-seeing all-knowing god stuck his pinky into nothing and created life– the ultimate goal of which was humans. He then decided to care very, very much about their genitals and the way they use them(or keep them!). You then proceed to claim that an all-powerful all-seeing, all-knowing god cannot do anything or see all or know all, because he is bound by the laws of logic, which he presumably created. You are very confused.

    Perhaps if you can transform your emotional reactions into rational objections and why you hold them, I might be able to help you.

    Meanwhile, I will make three unconnected comments as a response to your three unconnected messages:

    [a] If you are unhappy with the prospect that God created the universe ex-nihilo, you will have to take that up with God. I am simply providing a critical analysis of contemporary, (not classical) Theistic Evolution. Hopefully, it is now evident that Christian Darwinism is an intellectual and linguistic monstrosity.

    [b] Your personal hang ups about human genitals and their use (or misuse) are not relevant to the subject matter. While they may reveal your primary interest or area of ultimate concern, they do not contribute to the discussion, though we have addressed the matter on other threads. Sorry you missed it.

    [c] Your last statement is a contradiction. God knows everything about what is and what will be. He cannot know what cannot be or what will not be, for the simple reason that it is logically impossible for God to know as true something that is, in fact, false. This truth does not, in any way, diminish God’s omnipotence or omniscience. It confirms both. When Scripture says that “God cannot lie,” it is a compliment to His character, not an insult to His almighty power.

  260. 260
    mw says:

    Theistic and or Darwinian evolutionism of common descent is the desecration/descent of Judaeo-Christian scriptures which is historically based on the intelligent word of God at Sinai.

    As such, Darwin’s way, greatly believed, diminishes that faith, as it did with Darwin until he had none left in Christianity as being divinely revealed.

    Has any human grown a life form from dead matter. No. Not by chance, designed chance or otherwise. Then of course there was Lazerus, instantly re-generated. No waiting time there!

    Darwin buried the miraculous, and then took to looking at dead bones for inspiration.

  261. 261
    rhampton7 says:

    Yes, Free Will and Randomness are facets of the same problem. Augustine’s famous conversation with Evodius is but one example of this well known debate among philosophers and theologians.

    Randomness, Chance, and the Providence of God

    …The fact that a particular phenomenon has an element of randomness or contingency does not remove it from divine providence. God’s creative power is such that the very powers that allow a creature to act and to cause, even to cause contingently and by chance, depend at every moment on His sustaining power. Whatever happens in the world, whether it is a radioactive decay, a biological mutation, a decision to sin, or a decision to praise Him, does not catch God by surprise. In fact, He gives His creatures their existence and their natures that allow them to decay, to mutate, to sin, or to praise. This type of knowledge seems to go against our very understanding of what knowledge and causation are, but that is because we are only familiar with how created causes know and work. God is not another part of nature. He is not even the greatest part of nature. Rather He is nature’s author and sustainer. He is the Creator, totally other to the created universe.

    — Bro. Thomas Davenport, O.P.

  262. 262
    rhampton7 says:

    FYI,

    The Samford University Center for Science and Religion is engaged in a major scientific study investigating the role of constrained randomness in simulations of the evolution of neural architectures. It is anticipated that the results of this work will provide potential insights into biological evolution and will enable theological inferences regarding the compatibility of randomness and divine providence. The project is supported by the Randomness and Divine Providence Initiative with funding from the John Templeton Foundation.

    . . .

    Is the randomness used in this project “pure” randomness?

    The source of the randomness, whether “pure” or not, does not matter. The outcomes themselves are still unpredictable and randomly correlated whether the initial parameters and constraints are known, as in a random number generator, or not.

    Does “random” necessarily mean “arbitrary” or “meaningless”?

    “The materialist claim that any randomness in the world proves there is no purpose to our existence is seen to be a fallacy”. Science cannot answer questions concerning non-physical entities like meaning or purpose. Statistical randomness may be measured and observed, but science itself cannot conclude the meaning behind it. Instead, we turn to philosophy and theology to help us answer these questions. Scientific findings neither prove nor disprove meaning in anything.

    How can there be meaning in randomness?

    Scientists and theologians suggest several ways in which randomness might serve the creative purposes of deity:
    “This interplay of chance and law is the basis of the inherent creativity of the natural order, its ability to generate new forms, patterns, and organizations of matter and energy. One might say that the potential of the being of the world is made manifest in the becoming that the operation of chance makes actual. God is the ultimate ground and source of both law (necessity) and chance.”.

  263. 263
    StephenB says:

    rhampton 7

    The article “Randomness, Chance, and the Providence of God”

    That article is both irrelevant to the point and wrong: (Among other things, it confuses epistemological randomness with ontological randomness. )

    Again, I make the point: Specified evolution allows for only one outcome–by definition. If specified evolution (not Darwinian evolution) is true, and if God planned its course to serve that purpose, then nature is not “free” to change that course. It doesn’t matter whether randomness is involved or not.

    Free will has nothing to do with God’s plan for evolution. because free will involves the capacity to make moral decisions. Indeed, there was no such thing as free will while the evolutionary process was supposed to be producing homo-sapiens?. Free will came later with the origin of the rational soul.

    The Samford University Center for Science and Religion is engaged in a major scientific study investigating the role of constrained randomness in simulations of the evolution of neural architectures.

    I have already explained the difference elsewhere between constrained randomness, which requires a designer, and Darwinian randomness, which does not even allow a Divine foot in the door.”

  264. 264
    Eric Anderson says:

    Origenes @257:

    Notice that I’m not proposing boundary conditions in conjunction with randomness. If TE is to be coherent, then true randomness is out.

    Fair enough, but it sounds like some TE’s are proposing precisely that: some initial boundary conditions, some initial law-like process, some principle that — together with what would otherwise be the purposeless randomness of evolution — results in a pre-determined outcome.

    Yet apparently no-one can say what kind of law, or condition, or principle could possibly exist that would channel the purposeless randomness of evolution into a particular outcome. The best that I’ve heard on this thread is, in essence, “Well, we’re dealing with God. So he can do whatever he wants.”

    Such an approach doesn’t inspire a lot of intellectual confidence.

    —–

    Incidentally, and somewhat ironically, the materialists (Darwinists in particular) fall into a similar intellectual trap on the other side of the coin.

    They fancy that they have stumbled upon a law or principle that can channel purposeless randomness into amazingly useful and sophisticated products of engineering. Namely, natural selection. This is of course nonsense. Yet we regularly hear Darwinists claiming that Darwinian evolution is not really random because natural selection somehow channels the results toward some (conveniently undefined) end.

    If we step back a moment we can observe that both the theistic evolutionist and the materialist realize — probably due to common sense, if not to careful analysis — that the idea of random particle collisions producing life and the complexity and diversity of life we see around us is patently absurd on its face.

    Thus the latter clings to a designer substitute in the form of natural selection or reposes faith in the cosmic lottery via the multiverse or some other fantasy.

    The former is in a slightly better position intellectually, in that he accepts the possible existence of a designer, but then relegates the designer to some far off, distant, uninvolved role, while the conspicuously undefined initial boundary conditions or laws play the essential role of designer substitute in actual practice.

  265. 265
    rhampton7 says:

    I understand that you do not believe randomness and free will represent the same challenge to God’s ability to plan for unspecified agents, but that is a very different argument from it being than saying it is denied by Christian theology. While there is support for your argument, there is also a long history of support for ‘true’ randomness being compatible with Providence, and you can’t pretend otherwise.

    Now, if we turn your argument on Free Will, we can see where there is a shared paradox of multiple possibilities and guaranteed outcomes:

    Specified free will allows for only one outcome–by definition. If specified free will is true, and if God planned its course to serve that purpose, then free will is not “free” to change that course. It doesn’t matter whether choice is involved or not.

    Now contrast your notion of free will AND chance with this view:

    St. Thomas, who was no believer in astrology, evidently supposes that, while Providence acts according to fixed laws in the sidereal system, there is no such uniformity in the case of natural phenomena on earth. These latter are therefore often the result of chance, as far as secondary causes are concerned, though not so in their relation to God’s Providence.

    – and –

    According to Catholic teaching, God, who is the Author of the universe, has made it subject to fixed and necessary laws, so that, where our knowledge of these laws is complete, we are able to predict physical events with certainty. Moreover, God’s absolute decree is irrevocable, but, as He cannot will that which is evil, the abuse of free will is in no case predetermined by Him. The physical accompaniments of the free act of the will, as well as its consequences, are willed by God conditionally upon the positing of the act itself, and all alike are the object of His eternal foreknowledge. The nature of this foreknowledge is a matter still in dispute between the opposing schools of Banez and Molina. Hence, though God knows from all eternity everything that is going to happen, He does not will everything. Sin He does not will in any sense; He only permits it. Certain things He wills absolutely and others conditionally, and His general supervision, whereby these decrees are carried out, is called Divine Providence. As God is a free agent, the order of nature is not necessary in the sense that it could not have been otherwise than it is. It is only necessary in so far as it works according to definite uniform laws, and is predetermined by a decree which, though absolute, was nevertheless free.

    You don’t have to agree with the view to recognize that is a commonly held and theologically sound, Christian belief.

  266. 266
    rhampton7 says:

    The Samford University Center for Science and Religion is engaged in a major scientific study investigating the role of constrained randomness in simulations of the evolution of neural architectures.

    I have already explained the difference elsewhere between constrained randomness, which requires a designer, and Darwinian randomness, which does not even allow a Divine foot in the door.”

    Yes, I addressed your concern regarding Samford’s research with the included quotes, but read the site for yourself. They do not recognize the distinction you make regarding randomness and constraints.

  267. 267
    Mung says:

    What does ‘random’ mean for humans and what does ‘random’ mean for God?

  268. 268
    StephenB says:

    .

    rhampton 7 rewords my argument on specified evolution using these words and attributing them to me:

    “Specified [free will] allows for only one outcome–by definition. If specified [free will] is true, and if God planned its course to serve that purpose, then [free will] is not “free” to change that course. It doesn’t matter whether [choice] is involved or not.”

    Of course, that formulation is insane. There can be no such thing as “specified” free will, which is a contradiction of terms.

    My argument was nothing like that. I wrote,

    Specified evolution allows for only one outcome–by definition. If specified [evolution] (not Darwinian evolution) is true, and if God planned its course to serve that purpose, then nature is not “free” to change that course. It doesn’t matter whether randomness is involved or not

    rhampton7 Please explain why you [a] refused to address my argument and [b] misrepresented my argument by deliberately inserting and omitting words such that the entire meaning was changed.

  269. 269
    Mung says:

    StephenB: There can be no such thing as “specified” free will, which is a contradiction of terms.

    It would appear then that even God cannot specify free will. It would of course follow that no one has free will unless it was not specified by God.

  270. 270
    rhampton7 says:

    Stephen B,

    I had thought I made it sufficiently clear. By rewording your dictum in light of free will, I demonstrated that God need not specify an outcome for it to be guaranteed. As it is for free will, so it is for randomness.

    Again, what I am presenting is not new nor unique to me, as it has been argued for within the history of Christian theology.

    In practical terms, Stamford University’s project hopes to better understand the role of randomness in regards to evolution, free will, and Providence:

    Does this experiment deal with macroevolution? Is the theory of evolution adequately supported?

    The aim of this project is to provide potential insights into biological evolution, of which a notable biologist and Christian famously said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. Macroevolution is difficult to study, but substantially explains evidence from five main fields: the fossil record, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, biogeography, and molecular biology. “Evolution, although not without its puzzles and controversies, is now so well supported that it demands our assent.” . Well, “demand” may be a bit strong but the evidence is certainly there. In any case, although our simulations involve relatively simple neural architectures, they promise to demonstrate how complexity characteristic of species change can arise in an evolutionary setting.

    Does randomness conflict with Biblical truths?

    It is gradually being realized that, far from the epic of evolution being a threat to Christian theology, it is in fact a stimulus to and a basis for a more encompassing and enriched understanding of the interrelations of God, humanity, and nature. Nevertheless, randomness, especially as used in evolutionary processes, raises significant questions regarding compatibility with certain approaches to Biblical interpretation. It is our contention, however, that a better understanding of randomness will help us better understand both God and the Bible. Our results will aid consideration of age-old issues including theodicy, divine omniscience, and divine action, and potentially open new ways to consider topics such as consciousness and free will.

  271. 271
    StephenB says:

    Mung

    It would appear then that even God cannot specify free will. It would of course follow that no one has free will unless it was not specified by God.

    Recall that I was discussing specified evolution, defined as an evolutionary process that was designed to produce one result, that is, the one that matches God’s apriori intent. In that context, it makes no sense for rhampton7 to start using the phrase, “specified free will.” What could it possibly mean? What is being specified?–is it the existence of free will?–its use?–its outcome?–something else? Worse, he attributes that monstrous formulation to me. He simply doesn’t know what he is saying, and his links do not help him because they don’t know what I am saying.

  272. 272
    Mung says:

    StephenB: In that context, it makes no sense for rhampton7 to start using the phrase, “specified free will.” What could it possibly mean?

    Specified man named Adam and specified woman named Eve. What could it possibly mean? Was it God’s predestined specified in advance intent that they have free will?

  273. 273
    StephenB says:

    rhampton7

    I had thought I made it sufficiently clear.

    If you want to make yourself clear, then putting words in my mouth is not a good place to start. I am well aware of the argument that you are trying to make, or better, the argument that you are trying to get others to make for you, but it has nothing to do with my argument.

    Again, what I am presenting is not new nor unique to me, as it has been argued for within the history of Christian theology.

    It is not new to me either, so please stop carrying on as if it was. I have put several specific arguments on the table. Please try to address them. I am not interesting in entertaining any further quotes from someone who has no idea of what I am saying.

  274. 274
    mw says:

    Is human life based on a prior design? Or, are we an experimental cosmos, engineered by a higher life form using designed chance to see what the outcomes will be?

    In terms of the Judaeo-Christian faith, it is believed, we are generated from a God on whose image we are formed. Design and detail, from the first creative act from nothing in instant material chaos, followed in the same creative act, to create the humanly impossible; instant design in all life forms, and in matured surroundings.

    As much as people would like to speak of more science, other knowledge strongly suggests we must pay due respect to the supernatural and the knowledge therein.

    Tabernacle, furniture, and priestly costume, to the first stone Temple, were created according to an intelligent design in accordance with divine plans. The whole Jewish system from Sinai was built on divine plans. Nothing left to chance as such.

    Of course, reactions to chance, environment, stress and other factors, is surely inbuilt in all life forms, that is in the way they may react and evolve within the limits of their life form, according to prior inbuilt designed programmes allowing for such outcomes.

    However, if such a God based his programming on chance, that is, removed his intelligence, while allowing for blind deterioration in system functioning, and deterioration in programming and copying errors; then we, in those terms, are nothing more than an experiment of Yahweh, equal in essence to a meaningless creation.

    However, the same God, through documented evidence, did not leave anything to chance, guiding miraculously for forty years in Person, and then after, intervening to keep people on his way and path. And why should he wait billions of years to create when it is evident that no sooner had Moses gone up Mount Sinai, than people were sacrificing to a golden calf, led by a priest!

    Yes, free will allows for chance events with a broad spectrum of possibilities. However, in Judaeo-Christian terms, only two major eternally significant outcomes are possible in accordance with the parameters set. Do we believe such a God or not?

    Darwin crucified and buried the miraculous in order to ascend in his and our intellect, dismissing and conjuring the elastication of a major divine law in terms of theistic evolutionary concepts. But let’s not totally blame Darwin: in our free will, do we not feed the golden calf(s) of common descent in their various forms with shredded scripture. Be honest.

    Why should an intelligent designer, having all power, knowing all outcomes, knowing that, in Judaeo-Christian terms, that his law, his word, would be rejected in a short while after the creation and after giving the Sinai divine law – have to wait billions of years to become finally crucified? Rather, let’s get that part over and done with, surely, so that we may have life and life in eternal abundance.

    However, it is also abundantly clear that there are grave limits to free will.

  275. 275
    Origenes says:

    StephenB, thanks for your comment.

    SB:

    Origenes: I see no reason for TE to reject this idea (God guided evolution), in fact, as I understand it, this is their idea.

    That was the old-style TE, which is consistent with ID, the Michael Behe variety of God guided evolution. The new-style TE takes the insane position the God guided unguided evolution.
    Remember, TEs claim to follow the “science,” which to them, is defined by Neo-Darwinian ideology and the unlimited capacity of naturalistic forces acting alone. At the same time, they are also trying to say that those forces are not acting alone. God is involved.

    “Naturalistic forces acting alone” is consistent with God’s involvement only if design predates evolution and if the naturalistic forces involved follow predetermined paths. If TE doesn’t hold that then it is incoherent.

    SB: Thus, TEs, insofar as the accept MN, are committed to the naturalistic Neo-Darwinistic framework of unguided, undesigned, natural causes acting alone to create the “illusion of design.”

    TE cannot coherently hold that the laws of nature are themselves undesigned and unguided, as you seem to suggest.

    SB: Then, they follow by saying that God designed this undesigned process, which just happens to leave no clues about the existence of the designer. It is an intellectual madhouse.

    We are in agreement. If TE claims that evolution is an undesigned process, then TE is incoherent.

    SB: Under the circumstances, I would also say that it is irrational to assume that science cannot detect the effects of God’s designs. There is no reason to assume that. Design often leaves clues.

    I agree.

    SB: It is even more irrational to say, as the TEs do, that God’s designs can be detected in cosmology (fine tuning of the universe etc.) but cannot be detected in biology (DNA molecule).

    Indeed.
    BTW here you seem to acknowledge that TE is open to the possibility that the universe and its laws are designed. That is consistent with the concept of a designed lawful deterministic clock-like hands-off evolutionary process.
    To be clear:
    TE, as I understand it, is committed to “unguided evolution” in the sense that evolution is a hands-off self-assembling clock-like process. However it is not committed to the view that evolution is “unguided” in the sense that the initial conditions — such as the universe and the laws of nature — are undesigned, random and/or unguided.
    IOWs TE is ok with frontloaded evolution which unfolds lawfully and autonomously. In our discussion “unguided”, in the sense of autonomously unfolding predated by frontloading, is continually mixed up with “unguided” in the sense of undesigned and/or random.

    Notice that naturalism must hold that evolution unfolds guided by natural laws. After all we are talking about a deterministic process involving matter and natural laws. What the heck is “unguided” about that? All this talk about “random”, “unguided” and “purposeless” is unfounded atheistic gibberish.

    SB: That is completely irrational. Why would God reveal himself in the macro marvels and then hide himself in the micro marvels?

    Beats me.

  276. 276
    Origenes says:

    Eric Anderson, thank you for your comment. I would like to offer a few additional thoughts on natural selection:

    EA: They [Darwinists] fancy that they have stumbled upon a law or principle that can channel purposeless randomness into amazingly useful and sophisticated products of engineering. Namely, natural selection. This is of course nonsense.

    Yes. Indeed it is. Hugo de Vries said it exactly right:

    Natural selection is a sieve. It creates nothing, as is so often assumed; it only sifts. It retains only what variability puts into the sieve. Whence the material comes that is put into it, should be kept separate from the theory of its selection. How the struggle for existence sifts is one question; how that which is sifted arose is another.

    What Darwin called natural selection is actually a process of elimination. [Ernst Mayr]

    EA: Yet we regularly hear Darwinists claiming that Darwinian evolution is not really random because natural selection somehow channels the results toward some (conveniently undefined) end.

    The “greatest idea ever conceived” boils down to the notion that, the going out of existence of X, explains the existence of Y. Unfortunately for evolutionists this is not the case. What elimination explains is only why some things are not, not why some things are.
    If natural selection is to be understood as a process of elimination, as Mayr says, then existent organisms are the ones that got away. Instead of being created by ‘natural elimination’, exactly the opposite is true: they are untouched by ‘natural elimination’. Existent organisms are those organisms on which natural selection has precisely no bearing whatsoever. They are the undiluted products of chance.

  277. 277
    mw says:

    What Darwin called natural selection, was actually a product of his mental state. First a God substitute, then a lesser phantom of his imagination, that he had to downsize and make more nebulous, in order the God of Sinai could not retake his gains.

  278. 278
    juwilker says:

    Heks @ 227

    “Knowing an outcome is not at all the same thing as causing, guiding, or directing an outcome.”

    I know you are summarizing StephenB thoughts. But would you still agree with that statement if we assume omnipotence as well as omniscience? When ascribing God as the only agent “knowing” this future with the power to change the future, then wouldn’t this statement be false? Knowing is causing.

    A thought experiment from God’s perspective (futile, I know). If I can somehow see the movie being played out from start to finish, have I not encumbered my own omnipotence? I don’t think you can argue that knowing is not causing because what I know is ultimately due to my cause. I’m a small mind trying to understand concepts that I might not be privy to understanding. Maybe we should all keep that in mind as we debate how God would or would not have done something and just believe the His revelation the best we can.

    Justin

  279. 279
    Andere Stimme says:

    Justin @278

    I think we agree. It seems to me that if God can skip a few pages ahead and see what’s going to happen, then what’s going to happen is already written, or predestined. One might complain that that puts a limit on God, but to my mind, that He could create beings who truly have free will such that it’s impossible for even Him to know for sure what they’re going to do is more awe-inspiring than omniscience.

    And I definitely agree that it’s very easy for us to think we know a lot more than we really do as we ponder such things.

  280. 280
    mw says:

    Hi vjt, thank you for another thought provoking post. You say:
    ————

    “It strikes me that a creationist could conscientiously sign this Declaration, affirming a belief in the special creation of man, while at the same time acknowledging that the scientific evidence appears to contradict this view at the present time, but trusting nevertheless that at some future time, a resolution of this conflict of evidence will be found. To my mind, that sounds like a fine, manly position for a special creationist to take.”
    ————

    The “Manly” God/Jesus, never took such a position, and on his return will never take that position, which is against himself, having co-wrote in stone at Sinai that he created in six days. Natural science has no such power at hand to see if such a statement is true or not.

    That fact he wrote in stone, as Moses witnessed; as the whole house of Israel witnessed two stone tablets carried with the utmost holy respect, and as historic documents confirm; such is worthy of utmost consideration to what words written in stone signify, and which should need no further explanation.

    The human race is not above falling for a powerful delusion, and alas, Paul prophesied, Jesus would reinforce such in free will; surely following the new modern master Darwin, who cast out powers in high places beyond the material plane, both good and bad in order to substitute his own agnostic Gospel on origins, while disowning Judaeo-Christianity as a divinley revealed religion.

    The same principle operated, so it is believed, at the Fall, now on overtime with Darwinian common descent and its elasticated derivatives.

    A resolution will never be found, because the law of Sinai is divine, unalterable by fallen humanity; and as may be believed; by faith we are justified. That is, are we convinced of the worthiness of the Word of the Judaeo-Christian God or not? The short answer is, today many are not convinced.

    Still, if divine truth is not true, by comparison, nothing is.

  281. 281
    Eric Anderson says:

    juwilker @278:

    I know you are summarizing StephenB thoughts. But would you still agree with that statement if we assume omnipotence as well as omniscience? When ascribing God as the only agent “knowing” this future with the power to change the future, then wouldn’t this statement be false? Knowing is causing.

    Only if by “cause” you actually don’t mean “cause,” but instead mean “didn’t actively prevent.” In which case, since God doesn’t actively prevent anything that happens from happening, then God causes everything.

    Which is completely meaningless.

    No. We have to retain some semblance of normal English language usage, as well as basic logic. We must not fall down the rabbit hole into an absurdity and claim that just because a being knows something that the being caused it. Even if the being had the ability to do something about it and chose not to.

    Knowledge is not causation.

  282. 282
    Eric Anderson says:

    Origenes @276:

    If natural selection is to be understood as a process of elimination, as Mayr says, then existent organisms are the ones that got away. Instead of being created by ‘natural elimination’, exactly the opposite is true: they are untouched by ‘natural elimination’. Existent organisms are those organisms on which natural selection has precisely no bearing whatsoever. They are the undiluted products of chance.

    Thanks for sharing your additional thoughts. A valuable way to look at it, and well said.

  283. 283
    mw says:

    As anyone ever captured in a test tube Darwinian type natural selection, distilled it, then by artificial selection, all requiring intelligence, synthesised a new life form, I do not mean, for example, a variation of an existing bacteria kind, I mean a completely new ‘alien’ life form, with no end product in mind, stirred with the ‘spoon’ of chance?

    Ref Richard William Nelson: including,
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycoplasma_laboratorium

    http://us7.campaign-archive2.c.....f24d4f99b2

  284. 284
    mw says:

    Natural selection:

    “Last time out, we looked at Darwin’s theory of natural selection, alleged by some to be the single best idea anyone ever invented. The mere process of eliminating unfit examples of a type in a given environment builds up information over time, resulting in huge new layers of complexity.

    “But if no one can say what is fit or unfit according to natural selection, because nature has no direction, why must we pay attention to claims about natural selection? Why is there supposed to be anything to know?

    “Then there is Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, with its famous exemplar: the peacock’s tail. An illustration may help us see why reasonable persons continue to doubt.” http://feeds.feedburner.com/yahoo/zPEr

  285. 285
    Mung says:

    We have to retain some semblance of normal English language usage, as well as basic logic.

    😀

  286. 286
    mw says:

    Forgive me vjt, for having another go at your “manly” thing to do (in relation to consensus science and divine law from Sinai) which you base on a students’ “Declaration,” as cited in your opening, that we should accept the theory, and divine law, until ‘better’ results come along for such science, if I understand you correctly. What then?

    From the teaching of Master and Lord Jesus (Jn 13:13), who fulfilled divine law in divine sinless flesh (Matt 5:18-19); did Jesus fulfill modified Darwinism. No he did not. If he did, God would cast out God, as the teachings of Jesus was soley based on the Father, as Jesus regularly said in his divine/human kenosis.

    According to the Judaeo-Christian scripture, of which, Jesus facing the perfection of evil, fought using scripture (also prayer and fasting) against Satan; that scriptural lesson should speak volumns (Matt 4:4).

    Does the fossil record reliably show when various species diverged? No, it shows that species appeared on on top, or underneath each other with no perceived transitional forms, as Darwin lamented, and that stasis is the overwhelming evidence on face value for all life forms.

    A question is, is it possible that God could create a kind that is permanent, when, it is believed, he is permanent and does not change in essence (Mal 3:6).

    An equally important hypothetical question; did abiogenesis occur in heaven to produce St Michael the Ark Angel, or any angel?

    Surely, the only realistic, God given theory of everything, is six day divine law, amplified metaphorical with key truth of the cosmos in Genesis,which is above a theory, it is a statement of truth by the Highest Truth and Intelligence, as may be believed?

    Darwin dismissed such as preposterous. Nothing “sane” in Judaeo-Christianity he said, dissmissing recorded history for non recorded, non provable history of common descent, and a monkeys uncle ansestory.

    Basically, it may be said, common descent, albeit powerful at present, is yet an intellectual assertion of an interpretation.

    The God of Sinai, asked us to remember he created in six days, and to remember him actually in the Eucharistic Host, Personally: as do many Catholics and Orthodox, and which, a few Protestants also believe.

    There is absolutely no way science can every accept such a statement of belief. Human science, cannot identify spirit, yet, there is documented evidence of such a powerful concept.

    What Sinai theology implies is, a Personal God generated our spirit from his Spirit. That same fittest unchangeable God, created us in his image. He gave us life, he gave us his life, loved us to his death, then allowed us to eat and drink of the fittest in order to re divinise us in free will.

    The Master, Jesus/the Holy Trinity, said; flesh profits nothing, it is the spirit that gives life (Jn 6:63). Yet, consensus science would have us believe that a single cell, exquisitely created every complex life form on earth. Indeed, a miracle of materialism, rased from the dead that incredible miraculous cell devoid of spirit; creating animals/simian types that sing and speak, similar to Balaam’s ass?

    You say, vjt, something to the effect of being a real man; “manly.” What, the manly thing to do, is to further corrupt scripture with evolutionist consensus theory, which makes a nonsense of why Jesus needed to be crucified for the ‘mythical creatures’ of Adam and Eve, created by death, through simians in theistic evolutionist terms.

    Surely, in Catholic terms, in Christian terms in general, Jesus, and in the Holy Eucharist, is a real Man, who told the real truth at Sinai, that Jesus/God created in six days, dying in that fact, maintaining that fact to save?

    Or that those who believe in six day creation are not man/woman enough: yet, more often than not, able to withstand all the scoffing that goes with it, as St Peter propesised, gifted with the Holy Spirit, scoffers would come!

    As a Catholic vjt, I respectfully ask you, how can Jesus ‘evolve’ instantly into the form of a consecrated biscuit or droplets of consecrated wine?

    Surely, if we believe one impossibility according to materialistic human standards, we can just about believe that same Jesus Co created in six days, as he said as God at Sinai, which frankly, is easier to believe of the two.

    As for being manly/womanly where divine law is under attack; let’s substitute those students for Job to whom Yahweh said:

    “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

    “Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

    “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

    “Who determined its measurements—surely you know!” (Job 38:1-5)

    There was only One God at the Creation, One Truth, One Word.

    The question then becomes, how can God, with the greatest intellect, be so stupid as to make us believe he could and did create in six days!

    Let me see; God can see ahead and therefore plan ahead.

    It is impossible to believe fully in divine law combined to any form of Darwinism, unable to see by the phantom-like natural selection, any end whatsoever.

    Therefore, the God of Sinai, created and stated in such a manner to make the matter simple, clear, and so plain, that a child could understand in belief. In other words, ultimately we have no excuse against such believed divine law encasted in truth.

    Thank you vjt for giving me the opportunity for a rant. ????

  287. 287
    juwilker says:

    EA @ 281 “God causes everything…which is completely meaningless”.

    Actually, sages throughout history that have argued such. And though we don’t understand it, it is not meaningless. It’s a valid conclusion for certain forms of predestination.

    But I don’t want to argue that point here. I do want to explore the idea or belief that knowledge is not causation. The nexus of cause and effect is not as clear as we might think. Consider to the events of David and Uriah in 2 Samuel chapter 11 and 12. David helped bring about the death of Uriah, but he personally did not murder him. But God indicts David as the killer saying “You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites” (2 Sam 12:9). Technically David did not kill Uriah, but God said he did. Culpability was attached to his knowledge.

    This analogy is weak, I know. But I cite this story as an example that blurs the lines of cause and effect. This same story goes on to show that God struck down David’s first child with Bathsheba. Who killed the baby, God or David? I think if we asked God he would say David (his sin) killed the baby, not God, although we know that technically God killed the child.

    I believes that God does not “know” the future, but causes it according to his irresistible will. And His will can be changed. But we are getting off topic. Eric, I do value your comments and opinions. So don’t think of me as someone opposed to your worldview. Just challenging a few assumptions here and there.

    Justin

  288. 288
    Eric Anderson says:

    Justin, thanks for your kind message. Couple of thoughts:

    Whether or not some savages have thought predestination was true in their lives at some level is separate from whether everything is caused by God. Even those who believe in predestination broadly would not necessarily deny some level of free will in certain situations — what should I have for dinner? should I hunt the deer or the antelope today? should I participate as an effective member of the community or lie, cheat and steal? can I seek mercy from God and receive a reprieve? More importantly, just because some savages thought X, does not make it so.

    The closer analogy is pure materialistic determinism, where free will is an illusion, thought is just a product of random particle collisions, love is nothing more than chemical reactions. There is no truth, no falsehood, no good, no evil — just a bunch of particle collisions interacting over time, their cause inevitably traced back to that first explosion so long ago.

    We must take the view — we do so as a matter of practice and our experience with reality — that we have choices, that certain things matter, that decision A can lead to a different outcome than decision B. We also, as a matter of scientific inquiry, take the position that certain events are caused by specific interactions: what caused the fire? what caused the canyon to form? what happens when I mix these two chemicals? can I store an electrical charge in a gate on this hard drive?

    To argue, as some have on this thread, that God causes all these things, just because he knows about them, is nonsensical. It makes every other inquiry for causation futile and meaningless.

    Furthermore, even if we were to argue, that God causes everything at some very vague and high level, it still wouldn’t help us one whit in determining what actually happened in the real world. It is just completely useless and meaningless as a matter of practice, both in our personal lives and in science.

    Additionally, and of particular interest for many on this site, such an approach would prevent us from drawing a principled distinction between design and non-design. We would be left to argue that, for example, God “caused” the leaf to fall in the forest and he also “caused” the nucleotide sequence for the bacterial flagellum in the DNA. These are fundamentally different kinds of events, so we would have to then start talking about causation type 1 versus causation type 2. It would be a pointless exercise, all based on a semantic mistake and a poorly-thought-out conflation of two very different concepts: knowledge and causation.

    We can cut to the chase by asking a very simple question: Is it possible for someone to know what an outcome will be and yet for that someone to choose not to do anything about it?

    If that someone happens to be omnipotent, as has been argued, then by definition that being must have the ability to choose not to do anything about it, to not intervene, to let natural events run their course. Indeed, this is precisely the complaint so often leveled at God when bad things happen — “Why didn’t he step in and do something?”

    —–

    There are indeed interesting worldview issues, as you allude to. But the narrow point we are discussing here is quite simple and is just a matter of basic language usage and logic.

    The reason we have different words for these things — to “know” something, and to “cause” something, or even to “allow” something to occur — the reason we have different words is because they are different concepts. There is no inevitable logical tie between knowledge and causation. One can have knowledge and yet choose to not intervene.

    Knowledge does not equal causation.

  289. 289
    mw says:

    Hi Justin #287:
    ————
    ‘I believes (sic) that God does not “know” the future, but causes it according to his irresistible will.’
    ————

    God said; he is a God:

    “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfil my intention’, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man for my purpose from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have planned, and I will do it. (Isa 46:10-11)

    He planned creation in six days. He confirmed, spoke and wrote it at Sinai. If he did not bring it to pass, God is a failure in divine law, and worse.

    Jesus said, for God nothing is impossible (Mk 10:27), and we err in not knowing the power of God and scripture (Matt 22:29).

  290. 290
    StephenB says:

    Eric, I am grateful that you are speaking up on this vitally important topic. The TE initiative to recruit Christians is a true scandal. As you well know, Christian Darwinism is based on the illogical notion that God’s omniscience can produce a specified result that God’s omniscience did not provide for. Of course, this is nonsense. You are dead right: To know is not to cause. God knows if and when the stock market is going to crash. That doesn’t mean that He caused it to happen.

    This is a deadly error because so many people are involved, including mainstream Christians, their ministers and educators, and even my church, the Catholic Church (that is–the human element). Christian Darwinism represents the worse kind of intellectual schizophrenia, and it survives only because its adherents are duplicitous and relentless. At stake is nothing less that the spiritual and intellectual health of believing Christians, all of whom are regarded as mission territory for these partisan hacks.

  291. 291
    Eric Anderson says:

    StephenB, thank you for your comment. You’ve made some excellent points on this thread as well.

    I’m not sure. however, about the duplicitous nature of theistic evolutionists, broadly speaking. Sure, there are some who are really interested in the materialism and are only trying to shoehorn in the theism to reach a broader audience. Folks like Eugenie Scott, for example, love the theistic evolutionists, because they serve as “useful fools” for the materialistic cause.

    However, in my efforts to understand people’s actions and motives, I find that the underlying cause is much more often incompetence than conspiracy.

    I think there are many (likely most) theistic evolutionists who have adopted their position with sincerity, not because they desire to deceive others and erode theism, but because they mistakenly believe that the materialistic creation story has legs.

    Consider the position they are in. If a person were under the mis-impression that the materialistic molecules-to-man storyline were true, and at the same time the person believed in a creator, then they would end up adopting some kind of narrative to try to reconcile this cognitive dissonance. Yes, such a narrative is unnecessary; yes, it suffers from significant logical problems; yes, it is an intellectually weak position. But it seems in most cases it is borne more of an unfortunate misunderstanding of the science, than of a conscious desire to conspire.

    There is additionally a large swath of individuals who have bought into the theistic evolution approach due to outside peer pressure: a desire to remain in good standing in the science community and to approach science from a standpoint of methodological naturalism.

    Again, such approaches are misguided, but they are understandable in the context of human foible, rather than conscious effort to deceive.

  292. 292
    mw says:

    Hi StephenB @ 290, thank you for your hard hitting comments:

    ——————-
    “Christian Darwinism represents the worse kind of intellectual schizophrenia, and it survives only because its adherents are duplicitous and relentless. At stake is nothing less that the spiritual and intellectual health of believing Christians, all of whom are regarded as mission territory for these partisan hacks.”
    ——————

    In conjunction; initially, vjt, wrote:

    “The dissenters from the 1864 Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences carried the day, and by 1872, the Declaration was all but forgotten.” . . . . “It strikes me that a creationist could conscientiously sign this Declaration, affirming a belief in the special creation of man, while at the same time acknowledging that the scientific evidence appears to contradict this view at the present time, but trusting nevertheless that at some future time, a resolution of this conflict of evidence will be found. To my mind, that sounds like a fine, manly position for a special creationist to take. I wonder what Dr. Hunter thinks of it. And what do readers think?”
    ——————

    Are we saying, that improved evolutionary science will eventually resolve or dissolve more the Word of God from Sinai by intellectually sorting out God’s seemingly ‘dog rough’ statement (according to some of our highest intellects) that God Personally created in six days?

    What then if we head towards the suggested course by vjt? Would we be in reality, wanting and waiting to be ‘saved’ by some superior unprovable science, or should we just accept the word of an unprovable God, whom we claim as our Master/Jesus, in terms of the Christian movement?

    Verbatim, Christians’ have become largely embarrassed of an unalterable divine law (Matt 5:17-19) which Jesus fulfilled as truth (Jn 14:6), one with the Father (Jn 10:30), and the truth of the Father (Jn 17:17): “Saviour” (Isa 43:3).

    Today, from a Christian perspective, we have Christians’ for Darwin; Christian Intelligent Designers, and Christian Six Day Creationists; including long and short age, gap age belief and some others.

    We would agree, all are brothers and sisters in Christ, acknowledging He is Master/God. How do we know such, only through Judaeo-Christian Scripture! In no other way can we possibly know such, but only from personal witness statements, historically recorded, including miraculous unbelievable events.

    God/Jesus set datum essential for consistency, warning against deleting or adding words in scripture (Deut 12:32) and (Rev 22:18-19); including: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or else he will rebuke you, and you will be found a liar.” (Prov 30:5-6)

    St Paul said: “I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, ‘Nothing beyond what is written’, so that none of you will be puffed up in favour of one against another.” (1 Cor 4:6)

    Are we not in danger of puffing ourselves up greater than Darwinist Christians? Are we intending to substitute more knowledgeable, provable origins, greater and above the word of God, which he wrote and stated, plain and clear – no messing, in stone and personal. Or, if we are simply teaching, if so, just in what way exactly is our solution better than the word of God?

    Faith in his word must please such a God. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” (Heb 11:1-3)

    Unverifiable ‘science so-called,’ cannot be greater that faith in the unseen God’s word; nevertheless, who spoke “face to face” with Moses, “clearly, not in riddles” (Num 12:8). Based is the faith on historic evidence, albeit limited.

    Darwin scoffed at such, proclaiming such is ignorant and insane:

    “By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported—that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become—that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us—that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events—that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitnesses—by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation.” (Barlow, Nora ed. 1958. The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882. With the original omissions restored. Edited and with appendix and notes by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow. London: Collins) http://darwin-online.org.uk/co.....;pageseq=1

    Yahweh/Jesus, therefore, is cast among the ignorant by Darwin. It is beyond belief that any Christian can even begin to hold to any testimony of such a blind observer of documented history; and when his own observations clearly told him transitional forms do not exist.

    Darwin then goes blindly with his new found faith in his natural selection stripped of intelligence and direction, full of copying errors and blind chance. Surely a recipe for eventual disaster, especially when Darwin cut out from its heart the Holy Spirit, the giver of Life in the first place.

    How can a Christian therefore, place an iota of trust in even one iota of any type of common descent proposal when compared to the divine word, in stone. Such support makes God lie in stone.

    Nevertheless, Jesus teaches face to face with the perfection of evil; we live by every word from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4).

    With clarity, God spoke to Moses, the meekest man on earth (Num 12:3-9).

    And bear in mind, God used “uneducated men,” added by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, creating words everyone could plainly understand: still, some sneered (Acts 2:10); others amazed (Acts 4:13).

    The word of God is alive and active (Heb 4:12), therefore, the word of God from Sinai must be alive and active, or it has died, which is an absurdity.

    In my own country, it would seem the date for the termination of Christianity, is 2067. http://www.spectator.co.uk/201.....istianity/

    Why the descent of Judaeo-Christianity, it is because of a powerful delusion: if one section of a divine law is ‘proved’ wrong, the rest must be left a suspect. But none have! Most just want to believe that it is proved wrong.

    As a Catholic, and Christians in general, we may believe God has always something up his sleeve, as prophesied at Fatima. In Catholic terms then, what is the meaning of “My Immaculate Heart will triumph”? http://www.fatima.org/

    Will there be a triumph over Darwinism, embedded in communism, and now democratic secularism: the opium of evolutionary science?

    Of course, as a side issue, there is a concern that the instructions of the BVM have not been carried out; though the Vatican says different, http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/fatima19.htm

    However, one Vatican astronomer priest, declared six day creation is almost blasphemous!!! Think about it, God is almost made a blasphemer by ‘intelligent’ Christian interpretations of a dark night sky. What in the world have we come to? http://www.christianpost.com/n.....ok-128136/

    The Bible is not a science book; it is superior, providing light, giving an account of the miraculous; it is a super scientific book containing super scientific evidence, beyond our knowledge; willed by God as an almost insignificant means to communicate knowledge, give warnings and guidance of the upmost importance.

    Nevertheless, the Pontifical Academy of ‘evolutionism’ (so to speak), clearly rejects ID and Six Day Divine Law Creation interpretations of evidence: favouring, ‘never proved facts’ that an unguided worm will evolve into a monkey, all en-route to becoming human; and not even planned intelligently!

    However, Sinai is the start of a major historic unbroken link of Judaeo-Christian worship where God asked us to remember that he created in six days (Exod 20:8-11). Judaeo-Christian sabbath/seventh day worship no longer basically acknowledges such. Yet, miracles upon miracles surrounded Sinai and for over forty years, through Jesus, One in essence with the Holy Trinity.

    At the end of the Judaeo-Christian scripture, a timely instruction in spiritual warfare is given: “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev 12:17)

    Keeping the commandments means keeping the commandments; those clearly revealed, not distorting any to suit our purpose of disbelief (Matt 15:3-9).

    When with our ‘science’ we climb Mount Improbable, we will find a divine law still written in stone to face, and the word of St Paul echoing: “nothing beyond what is written.”

    I am sorry if this sounds like preaching, but from my point of view, it is a by-product, a consequence of trying to answer more fully the suggestion put forward by vjt at the beginning of another of his skilfully crafted posts.

  293. 293
    juwilker says:

    EA @ 288 “We can cut to the chase by asking a very simple question: Is it possible for someone to know what an outcome will be and yet for that someone to choose not to do anything about it?”

    This is a great question. And I will answer “no”. Two possible agents have this power you propose. Agent 1 is a human. Let’s assume Agent 1 does not have clairvoyance, but has “knowledge” using everyday predictable methods. For example, a mob boss has a pair of loaded die that he knows will NOT land “7” when two dice are rolled by an unsuspecting gambler. Here the mob boss has knowledge and culpability. Knowing is causing.

    Agent 2 is God who we ascribe as “knowing” the choices of other freewill agents. Now this is key. How can God “know” what the freewill agent will choose while at the same time NOT encumbering His ability to change the outcome? From my perspective, this is impossible. This makes no sense to me. I repeat from a previous post that I’m a small mind trying to understand concepts beyond my ability. But I try nonetheless.

    Let’s use an example. Human B is going to kill Human C in 5 minutes. Supposedly God somehow “sees’ or “knows” this event (this scenario reminds me of the movie Minority Report). Let’s further assume that 5 minutes later, human B actually kills human C. The paradox here is that God has encumbered His own omnipotence. By seeing the death of human C, it seems to me that God did not, could not, and choose not to stop the killing. And here’s the rub: the actual “seeing” of this event encumbered His omnipotence to act!!! So EA, in essence I am agreeing with you that knowledge is NOT causation, but I’m proposing that God does not have that knowledge and therefore can not be culpable.

    MW @ 289. I understand there are passages in scripture that imply God knows beginning from end. I get that. There are also scriptures indicating that God’s will is changed. I’m trying to reconcile these two very different concepts, just like people much smarter than me throughout history have attempted to do. I don’t oppose what you are saying, just trying to make sense of it.

    And the best I can come up with is that God does not KNOW the future, but CREATES the future according to his irresistible will, which can change. Hope that makes sense.

    By the way, I’m a YEC who thoroughly discards the idea of TE.

  294. 294
    Eric Anderson says:

    Thanks, Justin. I appreciate you taking time to comment and I respect that you have put some careful thought into this. If I may, perhaps I can offer just a couple of initial reactions, which I fear may come off as more abrupt and critical than intended, so please forgive my bluntness.

    It seems your examples speak more to your unique conception of God than to the logical and scientific issue at hand. You seem set on a false dichotomy, namely, that it is impossible to know what will happen without encumbering your ability to do something about it. Yes, one possible resolution is to jettison the omniscience — to eliminate the “knowledge” part of the equation — but that isn’t the only option.

    First of all, you are thinking very linearly about time and about possible outcomes. I don’t know whether this flows from, or is the source of, your idea that God is not really omniscient. Regardless, I don’t want to get into too much of a debate about anyone’s particular conceptions about God.

    But it simply does not follow that knowing the future means not being able to do anything about it. In the first place, the future — rather than being static — may be a series of possibilities which can very much be chosen and influenced. It may be possible for God to see very clearly that series of possibilities. After all, even in our own lives we see a set of possibilities before us every time we make a decision — from decisions where the possibilities are hazy and unresolved, given our intellectual limitations, to decisions where the possibilities are extremely specific, bounded, and well-known, like my decision to press certain keys on the keyboard to produce this comment. Knowing the possibilities and knowing the precise outcome of those possibilities certainly does not hamper our ability to choose between them. Indeed, the very concept of intelligence, both practically and etymologically, harks to our ability to choose between contingent possibilities.

    Second, even in your claim of knowledge encumbering omnipotence, you gave away the store: “it seems to me that God did not, could not, and chose not . . . [emphasis added]” In other words, there was a choice made. The being has the ability to choose to act. And if he had wanted to make a different choice, then he could have.

    What you are really getting hung up on is not the ability to act, or even the ability to see the future. It is the classic time-travel dilemma: “If I see x in the future, but then make a choice to change that outcome, then — in theory — I shouldn’t have seen x in the future in the first place.” But this assumes I am stuck in a particular immutable timeline and am seeing from a particular moment in that timeline. The classic resolution to this dilemma is simply to posit that what was glimpsed in the future was a contingent possibility, one that would occur if certain events were to continue in motion — in other words, if a different choice is not made.

    If we are getting hung up on the chicken-and-egg question of knowing something before it happens (due to the time-travel dilemma or some particular conceptions of what it means to be omniscient and omnipotent), then we can simply make the event contemporaneous for purposes of the issue at hand. If I see something occurring right now, does it necessarily mean I am causing it to occur? Of course not.

    Knowing something is happening and causing something to happen are different concepts. I think we agree on that point, which is the key for this thread and for analyzing certain TE positions.

    By the way, why do you feel more comfortable getting rid of omniscience than getting rid of omnipotence? 🙂

  295. 295
    Ted Davis says:

    Many thanks to VJ for handling this particular subject so competently, and to Joshua for taking so much time to answer as many questions as he reasonably could. Having interacted here and in other spaces with armies of people skeptical of or wholly against my views, I admire his patience. Some folks seem to have unlimited time for online conversations, but most folks don’t. As a result, in any large online community there will always be good questions that go unanswered–which signifies only that there will always be good questions that go unanswered.

    I’d love to jump in and engage VJ @120 on Boyle and MN (and SB @96 on related matters), but time is not at a premium and what’s really needed is a full history of “naturalism” in its various forms. I know of just a few articles on that general subject (probably there are more that I ought to know about), and I wrote one of them (with philosopher Robin Collins). That doesn’t make me right, obviously, but it does mean that I got invited to a recent conference aimed at producing a whole volume of essays on the history of MN. Overall, I will say only that (pace SB and VJ) MN does go back to the Greeks, especially the Hippocratic treatise “On the Sacred Disease,” but that it was also basically enshrined in the practices of the medieval universities, which forbade arts masters (the science teachers) from teaching about God and theology, while allowing the theologians to teach about anything, including natural philosophy (Science). A lot more can be said, obviously, but this isn’t the place to say it.

    As for Boyle, VJ is right that Boyle brought God into the picture a lot. Nothing I wrote about Boyle in my columns for BL (or anywhere else) says otherwise. Indeed, Boyle was basically the founder of ID, and flat no one has ever given stronger support to the design argument than Boyle. It’s not a stretch to say that Paley is basically an elaboration of Boyle in much clearer, more readable form. At the same time, Boyle didn’t believe that appeals to divine agency ought to be used as scientific explanations. Rather, he thought that “mind” (NOUS, following Anaxagoras) was essential to explaining nature as we find it. That’s not the same thing as explaining this given phenomenon as it takes place. So, it comes down to definitions of MN. On that, at least, VJ and I might well agree.

    I also comment on Joshua’s admiration for Owen Gingerich’s approach to designed evolution. My review of his book, “God’s Universe,” (published more recently than the work Joshua quotes) might help clarify where Owen is coming from: http://www.firstthings.com/art.....-beautiful. He was basically a modern Asa Gray. I too admire Owen’s very careful delineation of the limits of current science and his deep belief in the reality of divine action, coupled with a reluctance to jump to premature conclusions about how the science must or ought relate to the faith.

    Finally, I note the umbrage taken by some here, both at VJ for raising serious questions about Hunter’s writings and at Joshua for making respectful, honest statements about his convictions. Similar things happened to me on multiple occasions here, and insults about people’s motives have often been made–such as those directed at Steven Barr simply for writing a brilliant piece called “Chance, By Design.” It’s one thing to disagree with someone; it’s another entirely to say that they simply want to be “cool” and not rock the boat. If ID wants to find support from more people in the scientific community, the motives of those who articulate other thoughtful responses to the challenges of evolution must not be equated with gutlessless.

  296. 296
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Ted Davis,

    I very much appreciate your kind comments on this thread. I think you’re right: we seem to have different definitions of methodological naturalism. For my part, I have difficulty seeing someone who writes about God in a science textbook as a methodological naturalist, when doing that sort of thing would get you shunned nowadays.

    I think you are right in highlighting the Hippocratic treatise, “On the Sacred Disease,” as a forerunner of modern-day MN. Hippocrates doesn’t actually say that appealing to the divine is not kosher when doing science, but he does say that people in his day call epilepsy divine because of their inability to comprehend it. Even today, 2,400 years after he wrote, his treatise has a strikingly modern tone.

    I was interested to read what you said about Boyle: “At the same time, Boyle didn’t believe that appeals to divine agency ought to be used as scientific explanations. Rather, he thought that ‘mind’ (NOUS, following Anaxagoras) was essential to explaining nature as we find it. That’s not the same thing as explaining this given phenomenon as it takes place.” If you could point me to a link where I can read where he says that in his writings, I’d be very grateful.

    By the way, I’d agree with you about Boyle and Paley.

    Thanks again for the exchange.

  297. 297
    vjtorley says:

    Hi mw and juwilker,

    I’m off to work shortly, but I’ll try to get back to you tonight. Cheers.

  298. 298
    Ted Davis says:

    A little while ago I said more about naturalism, in response to the flurry generated by a paper by Chinese authors that was withdrawn from publication b/c many objected to its over references to a creator: http://biologos.org/blogs/ted-.....roposition

    I wrote this about Boyle there: “Revered by those who knew him for the depth of his faith, Boyle was among the most pious Christians in the history of science, and he did not take God or the Bible lightly. He even wrote a full-length treatise defending the language of Scripture against religious skeptics, in addition to numerous books about specific theological topics. However, he did not regard those works as belonging to “natural philosophy,” that is what we would call “science” today. To see more fully what I mean, consider the two very large books of experimental observations that he published in 1664-65, one of more than 400 pages about light and the other exceeding 800 pages about cold temperatures. In both works taken together, we find the word “God” only eight times, almost always in a trivial expression, such as “God permitting,” and never in a way that added substance to his scientific conclusions. He cited the Bible just twice, once in a long passage about God’s curse on Ham (Genesis 9:25), as part of a discussion of skin color among humans. He didn’t need God or the Bible in his experiments, so he left them out.”

    I also talk about Newton, God, and natural philosophy. Go to the link for more.

  299. 299
    Eric Anderson says:

    Ted Davis @295:

    Thank you for your professional and thoughtful comments and for taking the time to share.

    Your piece regarding “Owen Gingerich’s approach to designed evolution” is impressive and well written. It also provides a decent summary of some of the key thought processes engaged in by proponents of theistic evolution.

    In doing so, your piece (whether intentionally or inadvertently) underscores the mental gymnastics that are required to mesh the “scientific” consensus about Darwinian evolution, with a belief in a creator. As has been pointed out clearly above in this thread, the options are somewhat limited in logical scope: either (a) adopt a definition of evolution that is different than what nearly every textbook, professional association, and evolutionary scientist uses, or (b) push the creator far enough back in time and interaction as to be essentially irrelevant to the “scientific” enterprise.

    Approach (a) is all well and good, and is probably something that nearly every supporter of intelligent design could support or at least applaud. But we would then hope that the proponents of (a) would be very clear when discussing the subject that they do not share or support the common, popular consensus on what evolution is or how it works. To profess (a) with a nod and a wink whenever a creator is mentioned, while at the same time supporting, hook-line-and-sinker, the traditional purely materialistic evolutionary narrative in one’s professional or academic life would be both too convenient and intellectually inconsistent.

    Approach (b) is not necessarily irrational either. Indeed, if one were under the mis-impression that purely natural processes, such as Darwinism’s random mutations and natural selection, were responsible for the origin and diversity of life we see around us, then one would be required to come up with some kind of narrative to keep the creator from being wholly irrelevant to the creation.

    Unfortunately, all such attempts are strained at best: vague assertions about evolution being guided, claims about undefined initial boundary conditions that allegedly move evolution in a specific direction, fanciful and currently-vogue assertions about secret and invisible action through quantum interactions, and so on.

    Furthermore, and ironically, all such proposals bring us right back to (a). Meaning, what we are talking about is not “evolution” as understood in the science textbooks and the academies, but is some kind of purposeful design, whether front loaded or interactive over time.

    So we are back to where we started and the questions on the table remain for theistic evolutionists:

    1- Do you think purposeful design played a role in the origin and development of life on Earth?
    2- If so, why?
    3- If so, is there any way that we could detect that purposeful design in biology?

    Presumably a theistic evolutionist must answer “yes” to #1, if she is being forthright.
    The answer to #2 will tell us whether she is talking about science or her personal theological beliefs.
    The answer to #3 will tell us whether she is open to even considering the possibility of design detection in biology (as is common in numerous other fields) or whether her mind is unwilling to consider the possibility in the particular case of biology.

    What we have seen time and time again, unfortunately, is a refusal to consider #3, often based on the exact same kinds of red herring roadblocks thrown up by the most ardent materialist zealots: we simply cannot consider design; it isn’t science; we must stick to methodological naturalism; and on and on. The reasons are no better; the thinking is no clearer. Just roadblocks thrown up to avoid considering the unthinkable: that a creator was involved in the design of life, not just vaguely and distantly, but directly and specifically and intimately.

    The possible motives for such unwillingness to consider design as a live option are many, and I’m sure we all would do better to not speculate on them in a particular instance, but they tend to revolve around a certain set of religious and philosophical, rather than logical or scientific, issues — none of which are particularly thoughtful, even if wholly sincere.

  300. 300
    mw says:

    Hi, juwilker # 293; sorry I have not replied sooner, my desk-top has just been undergoing a major upgrade.

    Indeed, as you say; God’s will may be changed, delayed or cancelled: no doubt by our prayer for one thing. However, His will for His overall plan and His purpose; it seems that is fixed.

  301. 301
    Eric Anderson says:

    mike1962 @223:

    Correct. Jerry has been proposing some initial conditions, some law-like process, some boundaries, that would channel an otherwise random process to a particular end.

    As I mentioned earlier in the thread, the only reason that seems to work at first blush is that the example given is so vague and unspecified that it can accommodate a wide variety of results and an essentially random outcome. As soon as we start talking about real biological systems — information-rich, complex, specified structures — the analogies of rain falling in a valley and pooling into lakes by gravity, and so forth, come up far short.

    Is it fair to assume you are not including a heavily front-loaded FUCA in this boundary condition?

    I don’t have any problem, in principle, with the idea of an initial designed, engineered system that could respond to environmental cues and turn into other organisms over time, using its pre-programmed capabilities. There is precious little evidence that this is what happened, but at least it is a rational proposal. We should also note that such a system might have a broad set of pre-programmed potential outcomes, but it would not be random in any real sense, certainly not in the sense that evolutionists understand evolution to be.

    No, the claim on the table was that some (conveniently vague and undefined) boundary conditions or laws could be set up to channel the randomness of evolution into a pre-determined result. One imagines some as-yet-undiscovered natural law or principle of physics that could perform this amazing feat . . .

    Unfortunately, that is all it is — imagination. There is no reason to think there is such a thing. Rather, there is plenty of reason to think there is not.

    —–

    BTW, sorry I previously missed your post among all the comments.

  302. 302
    juwilker says:

    EA @ 294
    Eric, I do not think you are being too harsh or critical. These exchanges are the kind that I like. A back and forth that helps lead to greater understanding. And I do value your reasoned comments. I do think you have a much greater grasp of logic than I do. I’m more of a shoot from the hip type of person.

    You mentioned that you didn’t want to get into a debate about one’s perceptions of God, but would rather focus more on science and logic (my interpretation of what you are saying). But I think the TE debate most critically depends on one’s conception of God. Words like front loading, the “omni’s”, deistic, mental/spiritual/physical as they are applied in the TE debate and analysis flow from one’s conception of God. They can’t be analyzed separately. That’s why the self-imposed MN rule of no “supernatural” (which has a variety of meanings depending on your worldview); pretending that one can parse an inquiry of truth into little boxes— is ultimately futile. The study of origins is inherently a study of “science” (as currently defined), philosophy, theology, and even sociology. One’s view of God is key in studying/debating TE.

    You asked at the end of the post why I prefer to jettison omniscience instead of omnipotence. I’ll answer by responding to your paragraph using human analogy. Because humans can somewhat see their own differing future states, you imply that perhaps God can also see multiple future states. The example you gave about us humans is a description of our power, not our knowledge. Right now, I “see” or have “knowledge” of me taking a vacation to Central America this summer. I also “see” that I will be eating a turkey and avocado sandwich in the next ½ hour. The realization of these two futures is dependent on my power (power is stronger in the short-term and weaker in the long term), not my knowledge. Possibilities realized of getting to Central America this summer depend on power. My son’s friend who would like to go to Central America this summer might have 10% chance of getting there. Me? -70%; a Central American diplomat stationed in Los Angeles planning to go home this summer?-95%, God?- 100%. Future outcomes depend on power/potency, not knowledge.

    You are positing that there could be multiple futures that God sees. But this is not established. Do we have any evidence of this via experiment, personal revelation, or scriptural revelation? In my studies I’ve seen more evidence for God’s power explaining future events rather than His knowledge.

    But let’s assume, arguendo, that there are multiple futures. If so, then God’s knowledge is inseparably intertwined with causation. Let’s go back the scenario where human B kills human C in five minutes. Perhaps God sees several states: human B attempts, but fails to kill human C; B maims C; B struggles with C who overpowers B and B gets killed; human D interferes and stops B; etc. etc. If these futures are live possibilities, and as you say “…if he (God) had wanted to make a different choice, then he could have” –like picking the human D saves human C future — then it is you who gave away the store. God’s choice and knowledge are inseparably tied to the outcome of the event. IOWs, knowledge becomes (or less strongly, “is part of”) causation.

    I do agree with you that knowing that something is happenING is different from causing. But we have not established that this concept applies to future states. I don’t know how to “simply make the event contemporaneous” for the issue at hand. That doesn’t help me understand because I can’t conceive of everything–past, present, future– as happening all at once.

    I’m not sure how to respond to the time-travel paradoxes you brought up. I’ve not thought about them too much. They are more in the realm of science fiction, kind of like the multiverse ideas. I’m not saying they are not valuable to ponder, but I’m more interested in exploring what I’m personally experiencing. I want (I’m choosing, smile) to be more evidence-based as I approach the origins debate. And evidence includes experiment, personal revelation (I guess thought experiments could be included here), spiritual revelation, scriptural revelation – in fact, ANY revelation that might help us understand the Truth.

    Justin

  303. 303
    vjtorley says:

    The discussion between Eric Anderson and juwilker on knowledge and causation has been very interesting. I’d like to make a couple of brief comments.

    Regarding knowledge, we have to distinguish between knowledge of an event which is causally (but not necessarily temporally) prior to that event, and knowledge which is causally (but not necessarily temporally) subsequent to the event – or in plain English, between knowledge which arises from determining the event, and knowledge which arises from being determined by it.

    We can now address the question: Is it possible for someone to know what an outcome will be and yet for that someone to choose not to do anything about it? If we’re talking about knowledge in the first sense, then someone’s knowledge of a future outcome presupposes that they have already made their choice as to whether or not to intervene in the production of that outcome. In the absence of such a choice, such knowledge would be impossible. Of course, the choice itself is entirely voluntary, but having made it, the agent’s knowledge is set in stone, as it were.

    If we’re talking about knowledge in the second sense, then the question of doing anything about the outcome does not arise, since the knower derives their knowledge about the outcome from its having taken place.

    I think that if evolution is God-guided in such a way as to inevitably produce human beings, then God’s knowledge must be of the former sort: it must determine events in the cosmos – at least, up until the appearance of man. (With regard to human choices, on the other hand, I would say that God knows them in a Boethian sense, by being timelessly made aware of them.)

    Are there any possibilities I haven’t considered here? Could there be knowledge of an event which is causally independent of that event – i.e. which neither determines the event nor is determined by it? If the event is a contingent one (as opposed to a logical or mathematical truth) then I think those are the only possibilities.

    What about scientific predictions, then (e.g. of eclipses)? Here, the knowledge we have arises from being acquainted with the causes that determine the event, and assuming a certain fixity of character on their part – in other words, assuming that natural agents will behave as they always have. Strictly speaking, we don’t know that for certain, but it’s a working assumption that we make in everyday life. And if (as theists believe) these causes are maintained in being by a supernatural agent, then ultimately, what we are assuming when we make predictions about everyday events is that the will of God is fixed. But of course, we don’t know that.

    Another thing that needs to be borne in mind is that when scientists predict events like eclipses, they do so as detached spectators who have no power of their own to influence the events in question. We can’t perceptibly change the movements of the sun, earth and the moon (at least, not yet).

    God, on the other hand, has total power over the whole of creation, so His knowledge could not be of the sort possessed by scientists. For Him, there are indeed only two ways of knowing contingent events: determining those events or being determined by them.

    My two cents.

  304. 304
    StephenB says:

    VJ, here is an analogy that may help:

    [a] I load the dice such that the number 7 will appear every time. (specified result) I designed the process so that 7 is guaranteed to appear. It is the only possible outcome because I have closed off all others. If I hadn’t closed them off, I couldn’t guarantee the result.

    [b] I use fair dice, in which case there are eleven possible outcomes. This is an open ended process that will allow all numbers from 2 to 12, including 7. I cannot guarantee that I will get 7. I may get 7, but it is unlikely. The reason I cannot guarantee that 7 will appear is because the process is opened up so that other numbers can come up as well.

    Someone questions the point as says, “Wait a minute,” If God knows that seven is going to come up with fair dice, then it will come up. Thus, the open-ended process of fair dice can guarantee a seven because God knows the outcome of all random processes.

    No, I say, the only way you can guarantee a seven is to load the dice. You cannot guarantee a seven with fair dice. Thus, it is impossible for God to know that the fair dice can guarantee a seven for the simple reason that fair dice cannot guarantee a seven. God’s omniscience has nothing to do with it.

  305. 305
    mw says:

    Hi StephenB #304:

    ——————–
    “You cannot guarantee a seven with fair dice.”
    ——————–

    True, but God guarantees six as divine law. The crucifixion guarantees the same as His word at Sinai guarantees creation in six days. Heaven and hell is another certainty, being divinely revealed. It is taken for granted the Saviour is totally fair. Darwin believed different.

    Our belief or lack of, cannot change divine certainty. If God does not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, such divine law has made an ass, and justice fails.

    Clearly not the case.

    Still, how God truly operates (sees and knows) we can only speculate. Who knows, some speculation may hit the mark.

  306. 306
    Eric Anderson says:

    Justin @302:

    The example you gave about us humans is a description of our power, not our knowledge. Right now, I “see” or have “knowledge” of me taking a vacation to Central America this summer.

    Part of the reason I gave that type of example is that you seemed to not adhere to the typical ideas of God’s omniscience, namely, being able to see the end from the beginning. Thus, any knowledge must be dependent, as I said, on “sick predictive skills,” rather than actual ability to see the future. Similarly, since none of us mortals can see the future in a literal outside-of-time sense, the best we can do is rely on our predictive skills and our understanding of cause and effect. Even in that very limited kind of “seeing” the future, which is sufficient for purposes of the present discussion, we can see that knowledge of possible future outcomes does not equal causation, which is why I gave that example.

    The realization of these two futures is dependent on my power (power is stronger in the short-term and weaker in the long term), not my knowledge.

    How can you have power without knowledge of what that power can do? Yes, if you are causing something to happen then you must have the “power” to cause it to happen. That goes without saying. But it is precisely your knowledge of what can happen, or what will happen, as a result of certain decisions, that allows you to use that power. There are a few series of choices that can be made that will result in you taking a vacation to Central America. There are also many series of choices (nearly infinitely more) that will result in you not taking a vacation to Central America. And you know, within reasonable bounds, that taking certain actions, A, B, C . . . Z will result in you taking a vacation to Central America. But knowing and doing are very different things.

    You are positing that there could be multiple futures that God sees. But this is not established. Do we have any evidence of this via experiment, personal revelation, or scriptural revelation?

    I am not necessarily proposing it as a definitive answer, just noting that it is one possible approach to the potential false dichotomy on which you seemed to be getting hung up, namely that simply seeing the future means God has no ability to influence it. I’m saying it doesn’t follow. And, even setting aside possible approaches like multiple futures or seeing the end from the beginning, we can see from simple examples in our own lives that the future is not set in stone and that there are different possible outcomes, depending on our choices. And we can know, very concretely and specifically in some cases, what those choices are and what that future will bring (at least to the extent of that limited decision). But such knowledge clearly does not deprive us of the ability to do anything about it, nor does it mean, by force of definition, as some have argued on this thread, that knowledge means causation.

    If these futures are live possibilities, and as you say “…if he (God) had wanted to make a different choice, then he could have” –like picking the human D saves human C future — then it is you who gave away the store. God’s choice and knowledge are inseparably tied to the outcome of the event. IOWs, knowledge becomes (or less strongly, “is part of”) causation.

    No. The only reason some are going down this rabbit hole is because they are conflating the ability to choose with causation. Or, we could even expand it slightly and say they are conflating (a) knowledge plus the ability to choose, with (b) causation.

    Again, to cause something to happen is not the same as not intervening. It simply doesn’t follow. And it doesn’t help to say, “Well, God could have done something different; he could have intervened.” Of course he could have. That is precisely the point. He could have, but didn’t.

    I’ll repeat what I said earlier: the reason we have different words in our language for things like “cause” and “allow” is because they are different concepts. Even if God sees everything – through whatever means we want to posit – before it happens, it does not mean that God is causing it all to happen. Anyone who denies this simple fact is denying both basic linguistic definitions as well as basic logic.

    I’m not sure how to respond to the time-travel paradoxes you brought up.

    No problem; it’s not a big deal. The only reason I brought it up is because it is essentially similar to the idea you were proposing, namely, that any glimpse of the future must be an inexorable, unequivocal, set-in-stone future that is immutable and impossible to change; that once God glimpses the future, that future is set and therefore, if we track back the reasoning, God can’t do anything about it, because, well, then it wouldn’t have been the future that he glimpsed. I’m simply pointing out that this is a very linear, one-dimensional way of looking at things that (a) may not be what God experiences, and (b) is, even in the small day-to-day examples from our daily life, not necessarily consonant with even our own extremely limited ability to see/understand/predict the future.

  307. 307
    Eric Anderson says:

    StephenB @304:

    I say, the only way you can guarantee a seven is to load the dice. You cannot guarantee a seven with fair dice. Thus, it is impossible for God to know that the fair dice can guarantee a seven for the simple reason that fair dice cannot guarantee a seven. God’s omniscience has nothing to do with it.

    Exactly. And with emphasis added.

  308. 308
    juwilker says:

    EA @ 306
    You are correct, I do think “linearly” about these things. I’m conditioned to see cause and effect; time flowing in one direction. Everything I’ve experienced points me to this intuition. My study of revelation and testimony confirms this suspicion. Anything else is thought experiment. Infinity is a thought experiment, but we’ve not encountered it. We can conceive of multiple futures, multiverses, God outside of time, time travel paradoxes; but like infinity, we don’t know if these ideas are real.

    I think your last statement hit the nail on the head. You are right in that I cannot see how any being can “glimpse” at the future without having either caused that future or abandoned its ability to change it (“encumbered omnipotence” is my phrase for this). And you rightly point out that my way of thinking may not be the way God experiences cause and effect (i.e. He’s not linear, but outside of time).

    I do not deny that God or humans have free will. To the core of my being and understanding, I truly think this is the case. And I agree that knowledge, or shall I say “prediction”, is associated with the effects of that freewill. My choices will likely (or in God’s case, “will”) result in a certain outcome depending on my power. But from a linear viewpoint, all this knowledge in concert with power/ability happens in real-time- the “present.” I can’t bridge the gap where this knowledge/power combination somehow applies to future states.

    Your comment “you seemed to be getting hung up, namely that simply seeing the future means God has no ability to influence it.” is spot on, but I would scratch the word “simply”. There is nothing simple with this concept as we try to apply it to our reality. Our exchange about knowledge/causation has moved me to abandoned the word “knowledge” when thinking about foresight and replace it with the word prediction. Yes this is linear thinking, but it makes sense to me. No one has knowledge of the future; only prediction rooted in power.

    Justin

    PS: Eric, I do truly appreciate our exchange of ideas on this topic. I look forward to future posts that discuss these concepts. I’m sure I will expand and redefine my thoughts.

  309. 309
    Eric Anderson says:

    VJT @303

    Thanks for your comments. A few thoughts:

    Regarding knowledge, we have to distinguish between knowledge of an event which is causally (but not necessarily temporally) prior to that event, and knowledge which is causally (but not necessarily temporally)subsequent to the event – or in plain English, between knowledge which arises from determining the event, and knowledge which arises from being determined by it.

    No. This is a conflation of definitions. Knowledge before an event does not mean “in plain English” that it is linked to determining the event. In plain English it just means that the knowledge is before the event. The very question at issue is whether knowledge inexorably equals causation. Let’s not try to slip it in at the outset by definitional fiat.

    We can now address the question: Is it possible for someone to know what an outcome will be and yet for that someone to choose not to do anything about it? If we’re talking about knowledge in the first sense, then someone’s knowledge of a future outcome presupposes that they have already made their choice as to whether or not to intervene in the production of that outcome. In the absence of such a choice, such knowledge would be impossible. Of course, the choice itself is entirely voluntary, but having made it, the agent’s knowledge is set in stone, as it were.

    No. Again, the only reason your thinking goes down that path is because you have conflated the concept of knowing before an event with the idea of causing the event. In other words, your first kind of “knowledge” is not really “knowledge” in any normal understandable sense of the word. What you really mean is “causation.” If I cause something, will I know about it? Of course. Assuming I am conscious and aware of what I am doing. But the causal connection does not run the other way. I can easily know something without causing it. It happens all the time, every day.

    I think that if evolution is God-guided in such a way as to inevitably produce human beings, then God’s knowledge must be of the former sort: it must determine events in the cosmos – at least, up until the appearance of man.

    If I am understanding what you are trying to say, I think I can agree with it as a general matter – again, as long as we clean up the definitions. Specifically, in the case of God-guided evolution, it isn’t God’s knowledge that “determines events in the cosmos” it is his actions that “determine events in the cosmos.” That is the point. Knowledge versus action based on knowledge (or knowledge flowing from the action) are different things.

    Incidentally, we should point out that the person who is proposing some kind of God-guided evolution that inevitably produces human beings needs to be both intellectually and politically honest and acknowledge loud and clear that they are not talking about “evolution” in the sense that the term is used in schools, in textbooks, in science journals, in the academies. Rather, they are talking about some kind of guiding influence, some front-loading, some intelligent preparation, or some other outside influence. In other words, intelligent design.

    God, on the other hand, has total power over the whole of creation, so His knowledge could not be of the sort possessed by scientists. For Him, there are indeed only two ways of knowing contingent events: determining those events or being determined by them.

    So you don’t believe that God can see the end from the beginning, as is often claimed in theological circles? He, being omniscient, isn’t capable of that kind of knowledge? Furthermore, by the fact of having power over his creation, he is then stripped of predictive knowledge? That seems rather strange. Perhaps most troubling in this kind of philosophy, God is also personally and inexorably responsible for causing every contingent event in the universe.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m having a hard time understanding why some can’t separate in their minds the very basic concepts of knowledge and causation. The only reason why your claim about God having some kind of limitation on his knowledge or the alleged causal link with the “first” kind of knowledge you refer to – the only reason this even sounds good on its face at first blush, is because you conflated definitions at the outset – equating, by definition, prior knowledge with causation. Sure, once you conflate definitions that require knowledge to be inexorably linked with causation, then when we examine knowledge in the context of the discussion we will find – ta da! – that knowledge is inexorably linked with causation.

    But the conflation of definitions fails. There is no inexorable link. Certainly not in our lives in practice or in what we know from the world around us. And there is no logical reason to think there is an inexorable link in the case of some creator, whether omniscient, omnipotent or otherwise.

    Knowledge of something simply does not equal causation. They are separate concepts that deserve their own treatment and their own meaning.

  310. 310
    juwilker says:

    SB@ 304 “No, I say, the only way you can guarantee a seven is to load the dice. You cannot guarantee a seven with fair dice. Thus, it is impossible for God to know that the fair dice can guarantee a seven for the simple reason that fair dice cannot guarantee a seven. God’s omniscience has nothing to do with it.”

    You sound like me saying that God doesn’t (its “impossible”) know the future of a truly contingent event. But I do think omniscience has everything to do with the matter. Our concept of omniscience is very much part of the discussion.

    Let’s do a thought experiment. If God “sees” that a roll of two fair die hits a five and communicates this fact to a gambler beforehand who makes gobs of money and breaks the casino; is the event (the dice roll) that is about to happen determined or contingent?

    We can have quite a discussion depending on how you answer that question.

    Justin

  311. 311
    Eric Anderson says:

    Justin @310:

    You sound like me saying that God doesn’t (its “impossible”) know the future of a truly contingent event.

    No, he isn’t saying that. He is saying that knowing the future is not the same as causing it. The same point that has been made all along. If it is a truly contingent event, then the event cannot “guarantee” (StephenB’s wording) a particular outcome. It doesn’t make a bit of difference whether some allegedly omniscient being knows about it.

    For some reason people seem stuck on this idea that knowing something = causing it.

  312. 312
    mike1962 says:

    For some reason people seem stuck on this idea that knowing something = causing it.

    An easy way to show the difference: If I watch someone light a fuse to a bomb, I know (with great certainty) the bomb is going to go off, but I didn’t cause the explosion. If I know all facts, and know that nothing can intervene, then I know with absolute certainty that the bomb is going off even though I didn’t cause it.

  313. 313
    Eric Anderson says:

    Justin @308:
    Thank you for your very kind and professional comment. A couple of follow-up ideas:

    You are correct, I do think “linearly” about these things. I’m conditioned to see cause and effect; time flowing in one direction. Everything I’ve experienced points me to this intuition. My study of revelation and testimony confirms this suspicion. Anything else is thought experiment. Infinity is a thought experiment, but we’ve not encountered it. We can conceive of multiple futures, multiverses, God outside of time, time travel paradoxes; but like infinity, we don’t know if these ideas are real.

    That’s fine. The only reason I brought up alternatives is because you were claiming that God does not have the ability to see the future, that he isn’t really omniscient. You might be right, but it is by no means a given, and would certainly fly in the face of most theological thought. Regardless, it doesn’t make any difference for purposes of the key point at issue whether the knowledge comes as a result of great predictive skills or as a result of actually “seeing” the future, being outside-of-time, or otherwise.

    I do not deny that God or humans have free will. To the core of my being and understanding, I truly think this is the case. . . . My choices will likely (or in God’s case, “will”) result in a certain outcome depending on my power.

    Agreed. And the key is choice, not just power.

    Your comment “you seemed to be getting hung up, namely that simply seeing the future means God has no ability to influence it.” is spot on, but I would scratch the word “simply”. There is nothing simple with this concept as we try to apply it to our reality. Our exchange about knowledge/causation has moved me to abandoned the word “knowledge” when thinking about foresight and replace it with the word prediction. Yes this is linear thinking, but it makes sense to me. No one has knowledge of the future; only prediction rooted in power.

    Again, you can have your particular viewpoint of deity’s abilities (or lack thereof), and that is fine. As I said earlier, it isn’t necessary to have a particular debate on that point and I don’t wish to denigrate anyone’s particular views in that regard, because it doesn’t make any difference whether we are talking about predictive knowledge or knowledge from some other source or, for that matter, whether we are talking about limited knowledge or perfect knowledge.

    The point is that the knowledge is logically and practically separated from the choice. So even if your omnipotent God has great predictive skills about the future and even if he could make a choice to influence some trajectory of events, it does not mean that he inevitably will or did or must make that choice. Surely, as you point out, God has free will. That means he can cause things to happen; it also means he can choose to stay out of the way and let natural events run their course.

    PS: Eric, I do truly appreciate our exchange of ideas on this topic. I look forward to future posts that discuss these concepts. I’m sure I will expand and redefine my thoughts.

    Thank you for your kind comments. I’ve had a potential head post percolating in my mind as a result of this thread. I’m afraid life will intrude to the point that I won’t have a chance to write it up, but perhaps I can pull something together before too long.

  314. 314
    Ted Davis says:

    For Eric Anderson @299:

    Regrettably I’m on the road this week with almost no time to interact with you, as much as I might like to. My reply will be (perhaps inadequately) brief.

    You said, “As has been pointed out clearly above in this thread, the options are somewhat limited in logical scope: either (a) adopt a definition of evolution that is different than what nearly every textbook, professional association, and evolutionary scientist uses, or (b) push the creator far enough back in time and interaction as to be essentially irrelevant to the “scientific” enterprise.?

    I say, perhaps there is also (c) adopt a mathematically precise definition of “random,” revealing that those biologists you refer to in (a) are going well beyond the mathematics in their overall interpretation of evolution, when they say that it means no one is in charge of the process. That’s the approach taken by people like Gingerich, Robert John Russell, John Polkinghorne, or Steven Barr–all of them experts in physics, where a mathematically precise definition of “random” is more likely to be found, since physicists are in general more learned in mathematics than biologists and they have used stochastic models successfully for an enormous range of natural phenomena.

    Unfortunately, when Barr wrote a brilliant piece about this for “First Things,” he was called on the carpet here and accused of intellectual cowardice, allegedly on the grounds that he just wants to remain “cool” with his colleagues.

    I suggest that Barr and these others probably know more than their critics here about “random” processes and how they might be placed within a variety of metaphysical schemes (including divine creation with deliberate intent). Perhaps (c) should be given more credence.

  315. 315
    Phinehas says:

    As others have pointed out, knowledge and causation are not the same thing.

    This is trivial to see for past events. I know lots of things that happened in the past that I didn’t cause.

    It is also trivial for current events. There are things happening around me right now about which I possess knowledge, but still I am not the cause of these things.

    It is only when considering knowledge about future events that people appear to get hung up. For those who do, can you explain what it is about knowledge of future events that suddenly makes it causal when it is quite obvious that knowledge of past and current events is completely separate from causality? How does future knowledge function so very differently from past or current knowledge?

  316. 316
    Eric Anderson says:

    Ted Davis @314:

    Thanks for the kind reply. I appreciate you taking time to weigh in with your busy schedule and hope your travels go well.

    The approach in what you are calling (c ) is absolutely an option. But it not really a separate category logically.

    Let’s assume, as you suggest, that someone like Gingerich, Russell, Polkinghorne, or Barr were to argue that the right way to understand randomness is not really the same kind of “randomness” that the materialist evolutionist typically refers to, and that this new-found understanding of randomness allows someone to be in charge of the evolutionary process behind the scenes in a way that would not be possible with the more popularly-understood materialistic concept of “randomness.”

    Is that a potential, rational approach to the problem? Sure. We could probably debate the merits of their claim, dive deep into what “randomness” really is, and spill barrels of ink on the precise definition of the word “random.” But to claim that the evolutionary process is not really random in the traditional materialistic sense, rather, it is random in a sense that allows a creator to intervene behind the scenes is at least a rational approach.

    So the question then is, what do we make of such a proposal?

    Let’s assume, just for purposes of discussion, that this proposal is absolutely true — that evolution is not really random in a traditional materialistic sense, but is “random” in some other sense that allows for outside guiding intervention.

    Great. I don’t have a problem with someone proposing that. I might be very skeptical, but they are certainly free to propose such a definition of “random” and perhaps they are even right.

    In which case, as I have been pointing out all along, they do not support or hold to the traditional concept of evolution. Instead, they are proposing some kind of guided, purposeful evolution — one with intelligent input and intervention.

    So if Gingerich, Russell, Polkinghorne, Barr or anyone else were to stand up and say, clearly and unambiguously, “I disagree with the standard model of evolution, I don’t think it works, I think the origin and development of life on Earth required the guiding intervention of an intelligent creator” — if they were to stand up and say that, I would reply:

    “Congratulations! Thank you for being upfront and for acknowledging the need for a creator. We are absolutely on the same page in this regard.”

    Now, I would also go on to ask them whether their claim of creative intervention is based on scientific analysis or is just a personal religious/philosophical preference. Specifically, I would ask (a) why they think purely natural and material processes are insufficient to account for all of life and why intelligent intervention is required, and (b) if they are correct that intentional design is present in the history of life, is there any way that we could detect it?

    If they respond with even a rudimentary understanding of the need for complex specified information, integrated functional structures, the probabilities involved in building a living organism, then I would wholeheartedly welcome them as full-fledged intelligent design proponents. 🙂

    If, however, they respond with roadblocks or smoke and mirrors assertions about the great virtues of methodological naturalism, with some narrow definition of “science” that does not consider intelligent causation, with some arbitrary refusal to consider design in biology even though it is routinely considered in other fields — if they respond with those kinds of answers, then we would know that something other than intellectual honesty is at play, some other motive that is preventing them from following the evidence where it leads, even evidence from their own proposal.

    —–

    I would hope they would take the former approach and stand up for the role of intelligent design in the history of life on Earth. If they do, please let me know, and I will be the first one to stand up and support them as well.

  317. 317
    Eric Anderson says:

    Phineas @315:

    Good questions.

    It isn’t quite clear to me yet whether the disconnect comes because of the future nature of the knowledge or whether something else is causing the stumbling block.

    For example, some seem hung up on the idea that if someone could do something (has the ability or “power” to do something), then that individual must have been involved. It doesn’t make any sense, but the thinking seems to flow kind of like this:

    – Assume God is the creator we are talking about.

    – God is also omnipotent. So God can do whatever he wants.

    – Since the future turned out to be x, it must be according to God’s will, because otherwise he would have done something to change it.

    – If it is according to God’s will, then we might as well say that he “caused” it.

    —–

    This isn’t the only way to arrive at a wrong conclusion, but it seems to be one of the lines of thinking we are dealing with.

    Another one that VJT proposed (I don’t know if he holds to it or was just putting it out there as an option) was more simple, and was really based on a semantic mistake that just defined knowledge as being inextricably linked with causation.

    Hopefully someone will respond to your question with a clear explanation of their chain of thinking.

  318. 318
    StephenB says:

    Eric, one last point with respect to alternative (c) and the changing definition of randomness.

    According to evolutionary scientists, [a] randomness means purposelessness and without aim, which means that [b] the evolutionary process is open-ended and capable of producing many possible outcomes, which means that [c] the final outcome is indeterminate–that is—unspecified, which means that [d] any appearance of design is an illusion.

    If my analysis is correct, then illusory design is the logical result of randomness as purposelessness. What sense to it make, therefore, for the Theistic Evolutionist to retain the conclusion (illusory design) while rejecting the premise (purposelessness) that produced that same conclusion. Wouldn’t the rational solution be to reject both the premise and the conclusion (Neo-Darwinism) and at least be open to the prospect that design is both real and detectable? As it is, they are trying to prop up the old conclusion (illusory design) with a new premise (randomness as correlation). It is this strained formula, it seems to me, that prompts them to posit a designer hiding behind the scene. Yes, unlike the guided vs unguided model, it is logically possible, but is it any less bizarre? With that model, the evolutionary process is not even responsible for the outcome, since it is the tweaker behind the process that is calling the shots. It’s all direct Divine action. There is no indirect secondary causality, which is the very idea upon which they hang their hat.

  319. 319
    StephenB says:

    Eric, I should probably clarify the last sentence to mean that there is no decisive indirect causality involved in the process since it is the tweaking that is ultimately responsible for insuring that the outcome matches the Creator’s apriori intent.

  320. 320
    Eric Anderson says:

    StephenB:

    Quite right.

    If the position is taken that (a) intelligent intervention is real, but (b) it is impossible to detect, then we end up with a completely unprincipled way of determining causation, which results in all manner of absurdities.

    The theistic evolution chain of thought goes something like this:

    Q: What caused evolution to produce, say, human beings?
    A: God caused it by tweaking things behind the scenes (or the other irrational proposal, made in the last few days on these pages, God knows the outcome, therefore God caused the outcome).
    Q2: Can we detect God’s designing influence? Can we detect the design?
    A2: No. The process appears to be a purely naturalistic and materialistic process. God is there, behind the scenes, driving things to his end goal, but to us it appears to be just the random interactions of matter and energy.

    —–

    The above line of thinking seems to be what some people are adopting. Yet it completely abandons the ability to determine causation in the world and results in patent absurdities.

    Q: What caused the rain to fall this morning?
    A: God did it. It might appear to us like it was just purely natural causes, but God was working behind the scenes in a manner that is undetectable to us.

    Q: Why did Bob win the lottery?
    A: God was operating behind the scenes to make it happen.

    Q: Why did the rock that was dislodged from the top of the hill end up at the bottom of the hill?
    A: God did it! He can see what is going to happen beforehand, and therefore causes it to happen through his immutable will. Even though the rock rolling down the hill appears to us to be the result of purely natural processes, God is really working behind the scenes to make it happen.

    Any needed explanation, any search for causation, can just be chalked up to God’s spooky action at a distance or to God’s immutable will. It is the ultimate God-of-the-Gaps fallacy come home to roost with a vengeance.

    Furthermore, as soon as we posit that God is acting invisibly behind the scenes without opportunity for detection, then there is no principled way to distinguish between the cause of, say, (a) the specific sequence of nucleotides in DNA required to produce a bacterial flagellum, and (b) a rock rolling down a hill. Our God-did-it “explanation” becomes a completely useless and superfluous addition to the apparent naturalistic cause.

    There are two ways out of this intellectual mess, as it relates to evolution:

    1- Acknowledge that if a purely natural and material process is sufficient for creating us, then there is no need for a creator; or

    2- Acknowledge that a purely natural and material process is insufficient for creating us and that a creative influence was required.

  321. 321
    Eric Anderson says:

    I should add that there is still one area in which reasonable minds could differ and I sincerely hope that some theistic evolutionists are in this category.

    Specifically, if I acknowledge #2 above (material processes are insufficient and a creative influence is required), it might still be the case that I could think the creative influence has not yet been detected. This really amounts to more of an “I don’t know” response to the question of design in biology. The individual could be open to the possibility that design is required and that material processes are insufficient — might even strongly suspect that design is required, but might think that design has not yet been demonstrated.

    Depending on the details of their argument, I could possibly intellectually respect someone who takes such a view: that although design detection is possible in biology the case for design hasn’t yet been made strongly enough. From an evidentiary standpoint, that is blatantly wrong. But from a purely logical standpoint, it is a possible coherent position for someone to take, at least temporarily while they continue to examine the evidence.

    What I cannot intellectually respect is someone who argues that design detection is not possible in biology in principle, because, they argue, we must adhere to methodological naturalism, or design cannot apply to biology, or we can only consider human design, or God acts undetectably behind the scenes, or design isn’t “science,” or other similar red herrings designed to deflect attention from the real issues.

    Unfortunately, I have heard precious few individuals make the prior argument (and those few who have challenged the adequacy of the design inference have, sadly, typically thrown up other objections of their own that belie their lack of intellectual integrity on the issue). Most people, including Professor Swamidass on recent threads and many others, seem to fall into the intellectual trap of the latter group: arguing that design detection in biology is simply not palatable or acceptable for one red herring reason or another.

  322. 322
    juwilker says:

    Phinehas @ 315, EA @ 317 and @320
    Thank you for the responses and questions. I’ve had life/work hit me this last week so not as much blog time as I would like. In fact, I still have some things to get done now, but I wanted to respond to these questions. I really do enjoy our exchange of ideas.

    Phinehas, the reason I have problems applying the supposed axiom “Knowledge does not equal causation” to future events but can easily apply it to present and past events is because to me, the future is thought experiment and past/present are reality. They are two different beasts so to speak.

    The past and present are part of my reality. Cause, effect, knowledge, allowance, omission, commission and other words (which EA kindly asks us all to keep our definitions from getting mixed up) we use to describe why something happens are more clearly defined for past and present events. Once we move into the future, we are in Thought Experiment Land (TEL). I love to visit TEL, I’m not denigrating it. But TEL relies more heavily on inference. The past and present rely on inference too, but not nearly as much. So when we see something or figure out something from our reality (past and present) I don’t think it so easy applies when we enter TEL. We are speculating how something might work if someone knew the future. But its just speculation. We don’t know. We have reports of people with psychic power who claim to see the future. Maybe true, but it hasn’t been established in my mind. And when we enter TEL, I don’t think disassociated link between knowledge and causation is clear.

    So when I see people axiomatically (yes I’m using this provocative word on purpose) claim that knowledge does not equal power (which they believe because of their experienced reality) when applied to the future, I am pointing out that this is not necessarily fact, but an inference.

    EA, again I thank you for making me think about these issues. Your posts in 317 and 320 are arguing against a case that I’m not making. I’m not saying you are setting up a strawman, because I can see how you might be thinking that I’m advancing a certain argument. Basically, I think you are saying that I believe that if something happens God caused it all. [By the way, to our atheist friends who might be reading this post might criticize me for assuming that God is a real person when in your mind God is a figure from TEL. Yes, God is an inference, but so strong in my mind that the inference is reality]. If it rains, why? God caused it. If the rock falls, God caused it etc. I’m not saying this. I hope I’m not implying this conclusion.

    I am saying a couple of things. First, your assumed “knowledge does not equal causation” position is just that: an assumption when applied to the future. You are very sure the two concepts are very different for present and past events. And I agree. But when we go to TEL and start talking about how knowledge and power function, it’s all inference. Remember the example about the five possible live futures and God choose one of them? The fact that God chose one of them was PART of the outcome (Person C gets killed or maimed etc). Perhaps not the full cause, but part. We are just speculating. You might rebut “no, person B who maimed person C is the “cause”, not God”. Well, you have a point, but you can’t conclude that God’s knowledge had nothing to do with the outcome. Again you might rebut, “no, knowledge is different from allowance that’s why we have two different words. Ok, you are right we have two different words, but that doesn’t change the fact that allowance (which I could also argue is a choice in my five multi-future example from TEL) was definitely part of the outcome.

    Second, I’m proposing that God is NOT causing all of these things we see. He’s letting contingent events happen, freewill agents choose, and intervening at His choosing. And He’s causing some events that look either contingent or law-like to us. Let me point to a famous New Testament scripture to get this idea across: (quoted from the Juwilker paraphrase version) “Jesus, Lazarus is dead, if you had only come a couple of days earlier he would not have died. Jesus responds, “ok, let me fix that problem.””

    I’m proposing that God not seeing a gazillion futures and picking from among them (I like Occam’s razor here). He’s not seeing the movie played from beginning to end; because if the movie has been cast and produced already, then I join Pinker’s group that freewill is illusion. I think the movie is being cast as we go. And I believe God is experimenting along the way. The Genesis Flood comes to mind.

    Anyway, I hope that helps further explain what I’m proposing. I’ve probably made a bunch of logic errors and you are probably going to point out many flaws in my arguments. And I look forward to correction and understanding.

    Justin

  323. 323
    Eric Anderson says:

    Justin @322:

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments, as always.

    EA, again I thank you for making me think about these issues. Your posts in 317 and 320 are arguing against a case that I’m not making. I’m not saying you are setting up a strawman, because I can see how you might be thinking that I’m advancing a certain argument. Basically, I think you are saying that I believe that if something happens God caused it all. . . . If it rains, why? God caused it. If the rock falls, God caused it etc. I’m not saying this. I hope I’m not implying this conclusion.

    I apologize if I gave the impression that was directed at you. It was addressing a specific approach taken by a couple of other commenters earlier in the thread who argued precisely that: God’s knowledge of future events means, by definition, that God caused the event. That is what I was addressing in those comments, because I view that as utter nonsense.

    I am saying a couple of things. First, your assumed “knowledge does not equal causation” position is just that: an assumption when applied to the future. You are very sure the two concepts are very different for present and past events. And I agree. But when we go to TEL and start talking about how knowledge and power function, it’s all inference.

    I’m glad you agree for past and present. However, the future is not simply an assumption. At the very least it is an inference based upon innumerable experiences with the past and present, coupled with no logical reason to think the future is any different. However, I think it is even stronger than that. You have quoted scriptures to some effect, but seem to ignore the doctrine of God seeing the end from the beginning. That’s fine. As I said, my purpose isn’t to convince anyone about any particular version of God. But it is a little convenient to ignore that common view and instead hold precisely the opposite view: that God cannot know the future.

    Setting aside possible views on God, there are examples from our own lives (given in some earlier comments in the thread), that demonstrate, or at least give us reasonable reason to believe, that we can have some limited knowledge of immediately future events. And at least in those cases it is clear that our knowledge of those events doesn’t mean we caused them.

    Regarding your example about possible futures and Person C getting killed or maimed, you are rather close to the mark in what the back-and-forth exchange would be. So rather than revisiting that, let me just cut to the chase:

    The reason you are disputing the distinction between knowledge and causation in the future is because you are setting up the argument @317. So in retrospect maybe that comment should have been directed at you after all! 🙂

    You seem to be stuck on this idea that if God could have done something or had the power to do something, then we have to say he “caused” the outcome. That is the real disconnect. I don’t think it has so much to do with future vs past/present in your mind; it appears it has to do with your concept that because we are dealing with God and because he has power to influence events, then whatever happens was “caused” by God.

    My rebuttal of that line of thinking has less to do with assumptions about thought experiments in the future and more to do with basic logic and basic use of the English language.

    Second, I’m proposing that God is NOT causing all of these things we see. He’s letting contingent events happen, freewill agents choose, and intervening at His choosing.

    Agreed.

    And He’s causing some events that look either contingent or law-like to us.

    Based on what? This is the heart of the problem with most of the theistic evolution claims: some secret, hidden, behind-the-scenes intervention that is utterly undetectable to us. Well, that might be a nice philosophical or religious position, but from an investigative, scientific perspective it is useless – by definition we can never have evidence of it. Plus, it suffers from the other practical and logical problems I’ve detailed previously.

    Let me point to a famous New Testament scripture to get this idea across: (quoted from the Juwilker paraphrase version) “Jesus, Lazarus is dead, if you had only come a couple of days earlier he would not have died. Jesus responds, “ok, let me fix that problem.””

    I like your paraphrase. 🙂 Except that the scripture clearly states that Jesus already knew Lazarus was dead before he went to Bethany. And presumably Jesus didn’t kill him – there’s that old ‘knowledge doesn’t equal causation’ again. 🙂 Furthermore, the scripture is pretty clear that Jesus purposely tarried until Lazarus was dead before going to Bethany, “that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” In other words, so that this singular miracle of all miracles – raising someone from the dead – could be demonstrated to His close associates and to others willing to listen. The Lazarus experience is definitely not an example of God “experimenting along the way.” However, I agree with you that it is an example of letting contingent events run their course and then intervening — very precisely, specifically, and purposefully — if and when he chooses.

    I’m proposing that God not seeing a gazillion futures and picking from among them (I like Occam’s razor here).

    Could be you are right.

    He’s not seeing the movie played from beginning to end; because if the movie has been cast and produced already, then I join Pinker’s group that freewill is illusion

    Sorry, but that doesn’t follow. Again, seeing is not the same as causing. This falls right back into the logical and linguistic trap of thinking that they are the same thing.

    I think the movie is being cast as we go. And I believe God is experimenting along the way. The Genesis Flood comes to mind.

    Perhaps. Definitely an intriguing thought.

  324. 324
    Eric Anderson says:

    Justin, BTW, I was thinking about this a bit more today, and I believe there is a way to examine this in terms of simple, short-term future events, in order to pin down the issue. I’ve mentioned this point previously, but want to home in on it for a moment to underscore the point.

    Although we may not have long-term predictive capability, nor do we have unlimited power, there are innumerable instances in our life in which we know what will happen in the immediate future as a result of a particular action. We know these things — if not with “seeing the future” certainty (which you suggest cannot exist anyway, so shouldn’t be an issue from your point of view), then at least with predictive knowledge that rises to an extremely high level of likelihood approaching certainty.

    For example, based on both my experience and my knowledge of the electrical wiring in my house, I know that when I walk in my office and flip the switch up the light will go on. I know that when I pull on the fridge handle that the fridge door will open. I know that when I drop a pen, it will fall to the floor.

    This is so simple, so everyday, so obvious, that I fear a fundamental issue may be missed if we don’t take time to consider the matter carefully. It is helpful to think about these incredibly mundane and simple examples. Thousands of them occurring every single day, as we go to work, drive our car, prepare a meal, pick an item off the floor, and on and on.

    Here is the principle at work:

    As beings who act and have the ability to choose, we are constantly acting based on our understanding of cause and effect and based on our ability to influence the future. We are constantly acting based on our knowledge of the future state that will result from our actions. Indeed, the very nature of our being as intelligent agents is based on this principle of choosing to take certain actions to make something happen. Even the very etymology of the word “intelligent” means to choose between contingent possibilities.

    So throughout our day, all day, every single day, we are constantly doing things with knowledge of what will result in the future as a result of that choice.

    Can we see far into the future? No. Is our ability to influence the future absolute? Of course not. But the very essence of our nature as individuals, our very being as intelligent agents, means that we are constantly taking actions with knowledge of what will happen in the future as a result of those actions.

    So it is possible to know the future with a high degree of certainty, at least in specific cases.

    Now, one question remains: does my knowledge of the future mean that I caused that future? Not necessarily. If my wife flips the light switch, or opens the fridge door, or drops the pen, I will know with exactly the same amount of certainty what will happen when she takes the action, as I did when I was about to take the action. I know because of past experience, because of my knowledge of the systems in question, and my other background knowledge. That is why I know. Not because I was the one doing the action or causing the effect.

    The key to knowing the future is my knowledge of the systems in question, not whether I happen to be the one performing the action.

    —–

    Again, these are incredibly simple examples. I have cited them purposely. Without breaking a sweat we could think of another hundred examples, because we are absolutely inundated by them — to the point where we take them for granted and miss the forest for the trees.

    I’m confident if you take some time to think through the broader implications of fundamental principles like free will, intelligent agency, choice, and action generally, two things will become clear: (a) it is possible for me to know, with at least a very high degree of certainty, some future events that will occur, and (b) my knowledge of that future state is based on my understanding of the systems in question, not on whether I am the one causing it.

  325. 325
    juwilker says:

    EA @ 323 and @324

    Good thoughts and I would like to respond to several. Plus I just had my “view” very challenged after going to church today. First let me respond to your comments. You seem to dismiss the “God allowing something” has no affect or in no way relates to the cause of an event. In my five future scenario example, you conclude that the fact that God chooses one of them has no bearing on the event we are examining. Ok, technically you are right. God was not the perp in any of these scenarios no matter what is chosen. But this technically, clinically correct statement still fights against our (my) instinct that somehow God’s allowance played a role in the outcome. I don’t think we can debate this point any further.

    Here’s something else you should consider. When many people have this crazy idea that knowledge = or could be part of causation, I wouldn’t dismiss it as utter nonsense or absurd (I think I’ve read these words in your posts). That’s too strong, don’t you think? I just sounds a little too confident when speaking of things we are just barely trying to grasp.

    You mentioned in 323 that you think I’m stuck on the idea that if God had power to do something then He caused it. I do not think that. I’m saying that allowing a certain future among many contributes as part of the explanation why a certain event happens. Again, you are correct that “allowing” a certain future to occur does NOT cause the event in question. And again, I respond that I have this nagging feeling that the allowance did play a part. But like I said, I don’t think we can debate this further.

    My Lazarus example was trying to show how God lets events happen and then intervenes when necessary. Not an example of experimenting. I had no intention implying that God caused Lazarus’s death because of His knowledge.

    I don’t have much thought about your objection to God causing things to happen that look to us as contingent or law-like. I didn’t mean to support the TE position that God works secretly and undetectably. I think scripture is full of examples of God working behind the scenes that aren’t clear to us until later on. Joseph being sold into slavery and taken to Egypt is an example.

    Your post in 324 does not help me here because I agree with what you are saying. I would just substitute all your words “knowledge” with “prediction”. When I turn on my light switch, it looks like I have knowledge, but it’s really a very strong prediction based on my knowledge of systems as you say. So I think we are in agreement here. In none of these examples do we truly know the future.

    Ok, now for my lesson at church today. I thought it might be interesting because it relates to the topic at hand. We studied 2 Kings 8 (juwilker paraphrase version) where the sick king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, sends his right hand man Hazael to inquire of the prophet Elisha whether he will recover from his sickness or not. Hazael inquires, and Elisha says to him that the king will recover, but you will murder him. And Elisha wept because God had shown him that Hazael would become king and would burn down Israelite cities, kill men with the sword, dash children on stones, and rip open pregnant women. And Hazael responds, “who me? I’m just a simple man”

    So I’m stuck. God very clearly saw this future of Hazael’s treachery. I do not and cannot assign any blame to God for this future even though He had ability to change it. It doesn’t look there are multiple futures (the gazillion futures). Maybe there is just one future in play. I’m forced to say that God can see the future (not just create it due to his power). As I was in church today, I was thinking “God were you reading my recent posts at UD?”

    I’ll end this post with saying that I’m just a small mind trying to understand big things.
    Justin

  326. 326
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Eric Anderson,

    I have to respectfully disagree with your claim that knowledge has nothing to do with causation.

    You write:

    I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m having a hard time understanding why some can’t separate in their minds the very basic concepts of knowledge and causation. The only reason why your claim about God having some kind of limitation on his knowledge or the alleged causal link with the “first” kind of knowledge you refer to – the only reason this even sounds good on its face at first blush, is because you conflated definitions at the outset – equating, by definition, prior knowledge with causation.

    If you want to understand where I’m coming from, consider the Gettier problem, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. What it shows is that there is more to knowledge than merely having a belief that happens to be correct, even if that belief turns out to have some justification. Many philosophers would argue that in the absence of a causal link between the belief and the state of affairs it describes, there is no good reason to call that belief “knowledge.” (Mathematical truths are an exception, but here, I’m only talking about contingent, a posteriori truths.) Of course, a causal link is not a sufficient condition for knowledge: there are “wayward causal chains.” But it is a necessary one.

    Knowledge based on human testimony creates no problems for a causal account of knowledge. If Tom tells me he saw a car accident, and I know (from my own past experience) that Tom never lies, then I know he saw a car accident. Likewise, if I know from past observation that falling bodies always accelerate at a certain rate, and if I also know from present observation that a body B is falling, I can be said to know how fast B will traveling when it hits the ground.

    As far as I can tell, there are no valid cases of empirical knowledge which is non-causal.

    You also write:

    So you don’t believe that God can see the end from the beginning, as is often claimed in theological circles? He, being omniscient, isn’t capable of that kind of knowledge? Furthermore, by the fact of having power over his creation, he is then stripped of predictive knowledge? That seems rather strange. Perhaps most troubling in this kind of philosophy, God is also personally and inexorably responsible for causing every contingent event in the universe.

    I believe that God knows human choices not by causing them but by timelessly observing them. I can make no sense of the claim that God “just knows.” That sounds too much like magic to me, and in that case, I can’t see why it should be called knowledge at all.

    Regarding other contingent events in the cosmos, I would say that God knows them by causing them. In other words, God decides which atoms in a radioactive sample will decay and which will not. I can’t see how else He could be said to know which atoms decay and which ones don’t, apart from determining the fact. And while I think humans have God-given free will, the atoms in a radioactive sample do not.

    Nor do I think that the commonly heard claim that God knows everything because God IS Truth helps us at all. Whatever God is, He is necessary. Therefore He cannot be identical with any contingent proposition, let alone one relating to a contingent (and possibly evil) human choice.

    As one Thomist philosopher memorably put it: “God determining or determined; there is no alternative.”

  327. 327
    Eric Anderson says:

    Justin @325:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and gracious comments.

    So I’m stuck. God very clearly saw this future of Hazael’s treachery. I do not and cannot assign any blame to God for this future even though He had ability to change it.

    The example of Hazael is a good example of God’s knowledge of what would occur beforehand. And I agree with you that God should not be assigned blame for the future event. Here is the other kicker: Elisha (due to revelation from God) also knew the future and wept about it. He could have killed Hazael and prevented that future from happening, but he didn’t. He allowed it to proceed. Both Elisha and God knew the future, could have done something to change it, and didn’t. Yet we don’t say that God and Elisha were responsible for that future. There are many other examples in the scriptures of equivalent situations.

    I’m saying that allowing a certain future among many contributes as part of the explanation why a certain event happens. Again, you are correct that “allowing” a certain future to occur does NOT cause the event in question. And again, I respond that I have this nagging feeling that the allowance did play a part.

    I realize we’ve discussed this in great detail and that it probably just needs to percolate a bit, but if you’ll permit me two additional thoughts (perhaps restating prior points just for my own benefit of learning how to articulate them):

    First, it is true that in specific situations we might struggle to pinpoint the precise “cause” of an event. Indeed, a significant part of our legal system is devoted to determining causation: who was at fault, how much, what intervening events impacted the situation, was someone else involved, was person x more at fault than person y, and so on? As a general matter though, both in our regular use of language and our legal system, there is a recognized difference between affirmatively causing something and not preventing it. Only in those rare cases when there is a legally-imposed affirmative duty to prevent something would a person be liable for not preventing an event. And even in those cases, we would not say that the liable person “caused” the event; just that they failed in their affirmative duty to prevent it.

    There is a reason we have different terms for different states of action or inaction. There is a reason we spend lots of money and time and effort trying to differentiate between whether someone affirmatively caused something or whether they just stood by and allowed it to happen. We should not conflate the two. This is why I have focused some of my attention in this thread on a couple of commenters who argued, in essence, that knowing of an event means you caused it. It doesn’t.

    Second, let me offer a fun example. This very issue comes up regularly with my kids, and I sometimes play a little logic/word game with them. For example, one of the kids might see the front door open and say, “Who left the door open.” I’ll reply, “You did.” When they look at me puzzled or start protesting that they didn’t, I’ll add, “And I left it open. Mom left it open. Everyone left it open.” Then they quickly realize I am not accusing them of anything, just pointing out that, up to that moment, we had all left it open. There are lots of similar situations. Much of the point is to teach them that they do have a choice in that situation to change the state of affairs (they can close the door and move on), and that it may not matter so much who “caused” the situation if they can easily and quickly rectify it. That is the parenting point. But the broader logical point also holds: The answer to the following two questions is both linguistically and logically different: “Who spilled this milk on the floor?” versus “Who left this spilled milk on the floor?”

    My Lazarus example was trying to show how God lets events happen and then intervenes when necessary. Not an example of experimenting.

    Thanks for the clarification. Agreed.

    I had no intention implying that God caused Lazarus’s death because of His knowledge.

    Of course not. Because knowledge does not mean causation They are separate things. 🙂

    I didn’t mean to support the TE position that God works secretly and undetectably. I think scripture is full of examples of God working behind the scenes that aren’t clear to us until later on. Joseph being sold into slavery and taken to Egypt is an example.

    Agreed.

    The problem with some versions of the theistic evolution position is not just the idea that “God works in mysterious ways,” so to speak – most theists would hold to that. The problem is that they are claiming in the case of evolution that God worked either (a) in a way that is scientifically undetectable (which means, we might be forgiven for pointing out, there is no evidence for the claim), or (b) through purely natural and material processes that don’t require God to do anything anyway.

    Your post in 324 does not help me here because I agree with what you are saying. I would just substitute all your words “knowledge” with “prediction”. When I turn on my light switch, it looks like I have knowledge, but it’s really a very strong prediction based on my knowledge of systems as you say.

    That’s fine. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about excellent predictive capabilities or actual “seeing-the-future” kind of knowledge. The point is separating the knowledge from the causation. Thanks to your good bible study instructor and Hazael, I’m glad you’re on board with that. 🙂

    —–

    Just to bring it full circle, the issue here, as it relates to the theistic evolution proposals, is that they posit either: (a) some kind of intelligent designing intervention, which means they aren’t talking about “evolution” as normally understood, or (b) a purely naturalistic and materialistic evolutionary process that can do it all, in which case God is superfluous and there is no point (scientifically, logically, or practically) in invoking his involvement.

    I realize you may not be arguing for these things, and I’ve appreciated your willingness to exchange views on related concepts. However, this is the heart of the theistic evolution problem, which is the primary thing I’m trying to address.

    Thanks again for the valuable exchange. I hope you’ll continue to chime in on other threads as time permits

  328. 328
    Eric Anderson says:

    VJT @326:

    Thank you for your comments.

    I have to respectfully disagree with your claim that knowledge has nothing to do with causation.

    Just to be clear, I’m not arguing that knowledge has “nothing to do” with causation, in the sense that knowledge is always irrelevant. Certainly if I cause something, I know about it, for example. What I am arguing against is the proposition made by some that if God “knows” something then – by definition – he can be said to have “caused” it.

    What it shows is that there is more to knowledge than merely having a belief that happens to be correct, even if that belief turns out to have some justification. Many philosophers would argue that in the absence of a causal link between the belief and the state of affairs it describes, there is no good reason to call that belief “knowledge.” (Mathematical truths are an exception, but here, I’m only talking about contingent, a posteriori truths.) Of course, a causal link is not a sufficient condition for knowledge: there are “wayward causal chains.” But it is a necessary one.

    I have not spent a lot of time on it, but I don’t have a problem with the general thrust of the Case I Gettier Problem. There can be a causal link from A to B. I can even know about that causal link. And if that causal link is correct, then I have true “knowledge”, even in the sense of what you are describing. But the cause of B is not my knowledge. The cause is A. That is the point.

    I’m not arguing that merely having a belief is knowledge. There can be a complete, verified causal chain from start to finish. The point is that my knowledge of the causal chain is not the chain itself.

    As far as I can tell, there are no valid cases of empirical knowledge which is non-causal.

    Well, if we are talking about knowledge of the causation, then yes, I agree. However, it is unclear whether this is very helpful, as it seems a bit circular. After all, we can certainly have empirical knowledge (i.e., observation) of the existence of a phenomenon, but not know the cause of the phenomenon. But, yes, I agree with you that if we are making a claim about the cause of the observation, then our knowledge would have to include the cause of the observation.

    I believe that God knows human choices not by causing them but by timelessly observing them.

    Even if that human has only been around for a very short time? Does God know what a baby will do? 🙂

    It is indeed an interesting question whether God’s knowledge of the future is based only upon excellent predictive skills or whether he can actually see the future. The scriptures would seem to strongly suggest the latter (just one of dozens of examples being the Hazael experience Justin cited in his prior comment), but I recognize that some think God just has great predictive skills – probably a really fast computer and some excellent simulation software to help him out. 🙂 I’m skeptical, but it is an interesting open question.

    I can make no sense of the claim that God “just knows.” That sounds too much like magic to me, and in that case, I can’t see why it should be called knowledge at all.

    Well, certainly if a being has actually seen the future, it should be called knowledge. What is it, if not knowledge? Indeed, he would know the future better than anyone else, including someone with great predictive skill. (Again, whether or not God can actually see the future is a separate question.)

    Regarding other contingent events in the cosmos, I would say that God knows them by causing them. In other words, God decides which atoms in a radioactive sample will decay and which will not. I can’t see how else He could be said to know which atoms decay and which ones don’t, apart from determining the fact.

    Well, that is a remarkable statement! I realize it flows from two propositions you are holding simultaneously in your mind: God “knows” the future, but God cannot “see” the future.

    It would be hard to think of a stronger God-of-the-Gaps approach to science. God decides which atoms will decay, God decides how many raindrops will fall, God decides all contingent events.

    This may help explain why you seem fine with the theistic evolution position (please correct me if I’ve misunderstood your position). Evolution can be random and contingent just like the most ardent atheistic evolutionist claims, because, after all, God decides which individual mutations will occur, which atomic reactions will happen, which particle ends up where.

    This is God-of-the-Gaps come home to roost with a vengeance.

    I sincerely hope I have misunderstood your position, but I’m not sure how else to understand your claim about God causing contingent events.

    Nor do I think that the commonly heard claim that God knows everything because God IS Truth helps us at all.

    Agreed. Saying that “God is truth” is not at all helpful.

    —–

    After re-reading the above, I want to apologize for my undoubtedly brusque response. I’m just so astounded by the claim that God individually decides the outcome of all non-human contingent events in the cosmos that I am nearly at a loss for words.

    That claim seems to completely undercut any ability to draw a distinction between contingent and non-contingent events, between design and non-design, between the purposeless and the purposeful, between the ordinary course of natural events and God’s miraculous intervention. It seems, at a single blow, to eliminate both any principled way to understand the natural or to understand the miraculous.

  329. 329
    Eric Anderson says:

    VJT:

    Just to follow up, there is a logical way out of the problems with the ‘God-decides-contingent-events’ idea. Three actually.

    1. Jettison the idea that God knows the outcome of contingent event. In other words, he isn’t omniscient. He could still be really smart and capable; just not omniscient.

    2. God could “know” the outcome of these contingent events due to his great predictive skills, similar to the approach you are taking with human free will. It might still not rise to the level of omniscience. It might still not rise to the level of actual knowledge, but it might be the best he can do; and as long as it is as good as his predictive skill in the case of human free will, perhaps we could say that he “knows.”

    3. Consider that God can actually see the future, in the sense of knowing the end from the beginning, outside of time. I realize you don’t currently hold to this, but it is a third possibility.

  330. 330
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Eric Anderson,

    I think we may be in agreement after all. When you say that God can see the future, that’s what I mean when I say that God knows human choices by timelessly observing them. Since He is an observer outside time, His knowledge of our choices is caused by the choices themselves. My choosing X at time t makes God aware that I choose X at time t.

  331. 331
    Eric Anderson says:

    VJT @330:

    Thanks, and I apologize if I misunderstood your prior comment. Let me just make sure I am understanding your position:

    1- You would say that God actually observes/sees the future, rather than just having great predictive skills about what he anticipates will happen in the future?

    and

    My choosing X at time t makes God aware that I choose X at time t.

    2- You would agree that God is not the “cause” of choice X at time t, even though God “knows” choice X will occur?

Leave a Reply